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From Scale to Practice – A New Agenda for the Study of

Early Metallurgy on the Eurasian Steppe

Bryan Hanks and Roger Doonan

Bryan Hanks, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Anthropology [bkh5@pitt.edu]


Roger Doonan, University of Sheffield, Department of Archaeology [r.doonan@sheffield.ac.uk]

Abstract:
This paper evaluates conventional scholarship surrounding early metallurgy in Central Asia with a
particular focus on prehistoric developments in a region including northern Kazakhstan and the southern
Urals, Russia. Traditionally, the emergence of metallurgy in this region has been viewed either as
peripheral to core developments in Mesopotamia, Europe and the Near East or as part of a much larger
zone of interaction and trade in metals and metal production technologies. Such views have deflected
scholarship from pursuing questions concerning metallurgical production, consumption, trade and value,
and their connection to local diachronic socio-economic change. This paper examines these key issues
through recent research programs in the steppe region and in so doing offers an important comparative
case study for early metallurgy. It is suggested that in order to develop a better understanding of
early mining, metallurgy and socio-economic change in the central steppe region, new theoretical
and methodological approaches are needed that highlight the unique characteristics of early mining
communities and their relationships to micro-regional resources and concomitant local, in addition to,
long-distance trade dynamics. These issues are discussed in light of some preliminary results from recent
field research by the authors on the Middle Bronze Age Sintashta development (2100 – 1700 BC) in the
southern Urals, Russia.

Introduction
The emergence of early metal production, including mining, smelting and exchange, can be seen
as one of the key elements in the development of more complex social and political orders in
the ancient world (Yener 2000; Maddin 1988; Tylecote 1987; Levy 2003; Linduff 2004). Metal
production marked an important transition towards increasing regional and interregional trade,
the innovation and diffusion of new technologies, and routinely provided the material setting
for wealth accumulation among emerging elite factions within early societies (Chapman 2003;
Kristiansen 1998, 73). Such conditions have been seen as contributing to the development of
early ranked societies in Eurasia (Kristiansen 1984; Koryakova 1996; 1998) and the rise and
expansion of early states and empires from the 4th to early 2nd millennia BC in the Near East
(Gilman 1981; Sherratt & Sherratt 1991).

Traditional interpretations of early copper mining and bronze metallurgical production in Eurasia
have either emphasized the connection with the expanding influence of urban cores, and their
exploitation of metal industries and other value laden commodities in peripheral regions, or
the emergence of elites and their control over metal production and exchange within societies
(Shennan 1982; 1986; Kristiansen 1984). Since the 1980s, studies of these developments have
drawn intently on various theoretical elements of Wallerstein’s (1974) World Systems model,
particularly its stress on core control and peripheral exploitation, as a way of modeling wide
scale socio-political relationships and resource exploitation within prehistoric Eurasia (Christian

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1998; Rowlands et al. 1987). Such studies also have characterized Central Asia and much of
the vast Eurasian steppe region as either a semi-periphery or peripheral zone of exploitation
by early states and empires situated to the south. Other scholars, however, have argued that
greater emphasis must be placed on understanding how technological developments articulated
with the emergence of complex social formations in the regions that have conventionally been
viewed as peripheral (Linduff 2004; Kohl 1987; Yener 2000; Hanks 2003). For example, Kohl
has argued that what has been seen as a Bronze Age ‘World System’ during the late third early
second millennia BC was not comprised of a single core region exploiting peripheral zones.
Rather, much of Central Asia at this time comprised a “patchwork of overlapping, geographically
disparate core regions or foci of cultural development, each of which primarily exploited its
own immediate hinterland” (1987, 16). As Kohl suggests, one of the key elements in this model
is that of transferable technologies, such as the knowledge and expertise required for metal
production, which could not be constrained by single socio-political entities (1987, 17). In
this case, the appearance of widespread mining and metals production in the Eurasian steppe
region should be viewed also in terms of localized social, technological and political formations
based on the exploitation of regional resources and the development of networks of trade and
interaction.

In recent years, several important research projects have focused on this very issue by examining
in greater detail diachronic changes in settlement, subsistence and craft specialization in Central
Asia and north central Eurasia. For example, the investigation of the Bactrian-Margiana
Archaeological Complex (BMAC), north of the Kopet Dag in Central Asia, has fueled great
interest in the emergence of a unique civilization geographically situated between the northern
boundary of the Near East and the Eurasian steppe region. Its relationship and possible
influence on steppe social, cultural and technological developments in the third to second
millennia BC has been actively discussed in recent years (Hiebert 1994; 2002; Anthony 2007).
Frachetti and colleagues, through the Dzhungar Mountains Archaeology Project in southeastern
Kazakhstan, have highlighted the role that Late Bronze Age mobile pastoralists may have
played in controlling the movement and trade of metal commodities (2002; 2004). Anthony and
colleagues, through a large multi-disciplinary project in the Samara Valley region, also have
investigated key developments connected with Late Bronze Age metallurgy, settlement patterns,
and social organization (Anthony 2006; Popova 2006). The work of Peterson and colleagues,
in conjunction with the Samara Bronze Age Metals Project, has focused specifically on the
importance of technological shifts regarding metal industries and the transformation of ‘value’
surrounding the manufacture and trade of metals and metal objects within the north central
Eurasian steppe region (Peterson et al. 2006).

In addition to these recent projects, important research undertaken by the Russian Academy of
Sciences at the Late Bronze Age mining and metal production center of Kargaly, situated in the
south western Ural Mountains region (Chernykh et al. 2000; Chernykh 2002a; 2002b; 2004a;
2004b), has revealed the extensive exploitation of copper deposits that are distributed within
an estimated 500 sq. km zone. This project has provided a valuable case study for examining
mining activities from the Early Bronze Age (Yamanaya phase – 4th mil. BCE) until what appears
to have been an abrupt collapse in the Late Bronze Age, dating to approximately 1,400 BC
(Srubnaya phase). A number of detailed investigations of mining and quarrying, ore processing

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and settlement/ mortuary patterns for this period have been published in recent years as a result
of this project (see Chernykh and Chernykh et al. references cited above).

Interestingly, a more intensive approach to paleoenvironmental study at Kargaly has revealed


the probable effects of over exploitation of local timber resources being connected with the ca.
1,400 BC collapse (Vicent et al. 2006). While the site of Kargaly is one of the most important
for the north central Eurasian region, the apogee of activity at this site appears firmly connected
with the Late Bronze Age Srubnaya culture. Since our main focus within this paper is on early
developments connected with the Middle Bronze Age, our attention will now turn to the role of
mining, metallurgy and social organization connected with the Sintashta development (Fig. 1).

The Sintashta pattern, also labelled as the “Sintashta-Petrovka”, “Sintashta-Arkaim” & “Country
of Towns” by various authors, has been perceived internationally as one of the most complex and
enigmatic prehistoric developments within the Central Eurasian steppe region (Boyle et al. 2002;
Jones-Bley & Zdanovich 2002; Chernykh 1989; 1992; Kuz’mina 1994; 2000; 2002; Lamberg-
Karlovsky 2002; Levine et al. 2003; Mallory 1989). Unfortunately, even though a substantial
amount of field research has been focused on this development, numerous questions still remain
unanswered regarding social organization, metal production and scale of inter-regional and intra-
regional trade.
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Figure 1. Map of southeastern Ural Mountains region indicating sites associated with Sintashta culture develop-
ments: Settlements: 1- Stepnoe; 2 - Chernorech’ye III; 3 - Shikurtay; 4 - Bakhta; 5 - Parizh; 6 - Ust’ye; 7 - Rodniki;
8 - Chekatai; 9 - Kuisak; 10 - Sarym-Sakly; 11 - Konoplyanka; 12 - Zhurumbai; 13 - Ol’gino; 14 - Isiney; 15 - Ka-
mysty; 16 - Kizilskoe; 17 - Arkaim; 18 - Sintashta; 19 - Sintashta 2; 20 - Andreyevka; 21 - Alandskoye; 22 - Bersuat.
Triangles represent investigated cemeteries. Ancient Mines: I - Vorovskaya Yama; II - Bakr-Uzyak; III - Sokolki; IV
- Ishkino; V - Ivanovka Dergamysh.

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Middle Bronze Age Developments (ca. 2100 to 1700 BC)


The Sintashta pattern, because it reflects a distinct transition in social, economic, and political
organization connected with the perceived development of more intensive copper mining and
bronze metal production, has greatly intrigued scholars since its early identification in the
1970s and subsequent research in the 1980s. Completely new forms of nucleated, fortified
settlements appear at this time in conjunction with increasingly elaborate cemeteries that have
yielded early chariot technology, large-scale animal sacrifice, and complex tomb construction
(Anthony & Vinogradov 1995; Gening et. al 1992; see Kohl 2007 and Koryakova & Epimakhov
2006 for good recent overviews). Based on these factors, scholars have suggested that the
Sintashta pattern must represent the emergence of complex hierarchical societies indicative of
‘chiefly’ leadership and territorial control (Anthony 2007; Koryakova 1996; 2002; Kristiansen
& Larsson 2005; Zdanovich & Zdanovich 2002). Moreover, because of the unique nature of the
Sintashta pattern, it has also been fervently discussed in relation to early Indo-Iranian language
(Grigor’yev 1999; 2000; Lamberg-Karlovsky 2002; Renfrew 1987) and the territorial expansion
of steppe pastoralist groups (Di Cosmo 2002, 29).

As a result of these important developments, most scholars agree that the Sintashta cultural
developments provided the foundation for the later emergence of the so-called Andronovo
‘cultural horizon’. The Late Bronze Age Andronovo horizon comprises a number of quite
characteristic regional archaeological patterns including the Late Petrovka, Fyodorovka, Alakul’,
and Sargary-Alexeyevka (Koryakova & Epimakhov 2007, 126). Unfortunately, the nature of
the Andronovo development has too often been connected with theories of migration and this
has overshadowed important social, economic and technological developments – including
transitions in metallurgical technology, mining and the exploitation of new sources of copper
ores, and growth in regional trade and exchange relationships between communities. More
specifically, the chronological and spatial transitions connected with the Sintashta, Petrovka
and Alakul’-Fyodorovka patterns in the southern Urals and northwestern Kazakhstan, which
date from approximately 2100 – 1500 cal. BC, represent a particularly important developmental
stage. For example, based on recent radiocarbon dating (Hanks, Epimakhov & Renfrew 2007),
the Petrovka archaeological pattern would seem to represent a crucial chronological and spatial
‘bridge’ between the early Sintashta development and later Andronovo subcultures in the
southern Urals region and Kazakhstan.

While Petrovka sites share a number of similar archaeological patterns with Sintashta cemeteries
and settlements they nevertheless contain a number of important new characteristics. These
include linear rather than circular settlement planning, the presence of child burials within house
floors, general decline in the richness of grave construction and furnishing, and the production of
bronze objects with different elemental compositions. Overall, the chemical composition of the
Petrovka metal objects, which are frequently made of pure copper, some with tin bronze and a
few with tin-arsenic alloys, is different from that of Sintashta artifacts and is more closely related
to later Alakul’ metal production (Koryakova & Epimakhov 2007, 83).

Degtyareva et al. 2001 have suggested that the new forms of metallurgy connected with Petrovka
sites were strongly linked to the exploitation of ores from the Mugodzhary Mountains of north
central Kazakhstan and that for this reason the expansion of the archaeological pattern extended

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eastwards across present day northern Kazakhstan. It is has been estimated that the Kenkazgan
mines of north central Kazakhstan produced 30-50,000 metric tons of smelted copper in the
Bronze Age (Chernykh 1992, 212). Such production would clearly have had an important
impact on stimulating regional socio-economic developments and the emergence of new trade
networks within the territory of present-day northern Kazakhstan during the Late Bronze
Age. Nevertheless, these developments appear to have post-dated the initial emergence of the
Sintashta pattern in the Middle Bronze Age.

Sintashta Settlement Patterning


The relative chronology established for Sintashta settlement sites is based on previous
excavations at Sintashta, Arkaim, Kuisak and Ustye, core sampling at the sites of Bersuat, Isinei,
Alandskoe and Stepnoe and the analysis of data from aerial photographs (Zdanovich 1988;
1997; Zdanovich & Zdanovich 2002). Unfortunately, even though a great deal of archaeological
excavation has been undertaken at sites such as Arkaim and Ustye, the only rather complete
publication to date is the work at Sintashta (Gening et al. 1992).

Based on initial studies, and relying heavily on air photo interpretation, three general categories
of settlement planning have been ranked chronologically with oval shaped settlements
(Alandskoe, Bersaut, Isinei – I, Kizilskoye, Rodniki & Stepnoye) being the earliest and rounded
(Arkaim, Sintashta, Sarym-Sakly, Kuisak, Kamennyi Ambar (Olgino) & Zhurumbai) and
rectangular shaped settlements (Chekatai, Konoplyanka, Andreevskoe, Chernorechnye, Sintashta
II, Ustye, Bakhta & Karnysty) representing the final phases of Middle Bronze Age fortification
construction (Zdanovich & Batanina 2002). Many Sintashta settlements indicate from one
to four construction horizons (Fig. 2) with some of the excavated sites yielding evidence
of reconstruction after phases of fire and/or destruction (e.g. Kamennyi Ambar, Alandskoe,
Sintashta & Bersaut) (Zdanovich & Batanina 2002, 123). Therefore, the relationship between
circular and rectangular construction features at these may have more to do with the growth and
expansion of specific settlements rather than chronological patterning. This has been supported
by a recent geophysics study of the Ol’gino settlement, which revealed that rather than being a
‘rounded’ settlement plan it comprised two distinct phases of construction that included a smaller
oval settlement with a secondary extension that was more rectangular in shape (discussed further
below). N

W E
N

W E The regional distribution of


S

S
Sintashta settlements in the
southeastern Urals varies but
many are spaced at a distance of
40 to 60 kilometers (Fig. 1). As
a result, several Russian scholars
have suggested that the territorial
0 50 m 0 50 m
zone of the settlements is limited
to a radius of approximately
Figures 2. Air photo interpretations of two Sintashta fortified settlements: 20-30 kilometers (Epimakhov
left – Sarym-Sakly; right – Andreevskoe. Shaded areas represent banks
and small oval depressions are house units (redrawn and adapted from
2002a; 2002b; 2005; Zdanovich
Zdanovich and Batanina 2002). & Batanina 2002). It also has

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been suggested that fortified and non-fortified settlement hierarchies may exist in these zones
(G. Zdanovich 1989), although in recent years archaeological evidence has not been published
to support this hypothesis. Currently, the most widely accepted model suggests that Sintashta
settlements functioned as independent socio-economic and political entities with shared cultural
customs and technologies (Epimakhov 2002a, 142-143). Nevertheless, this view may be
challenged in coming years as there are several Sintashta settlements that are grouped closer
together than 40 to 60 kilometers and little discussion has surfaced relating to this. For example,
in the Karagaily Ayat River valley, the Sintashta settlements of Konoplyanka, Zhurumbai
and Ol’gino are situated approximately 8 km from each along the river. In the far north of the
settlement distribution pattern, the sites of Stepnoye and Chernorech’ye are approximately 12 km
apart. The proximity of such patterning, and its connection to localized resources has not been
investigated systematically and future field research must seek to explain such relationships.

Sintashta Cemeteries
Excavations of Sintashta cemeteries have produced substantial evidence of complex ritual
patterns; including animal sacrifice, spoke wheeled chariots, and weaponry (stone and bronze
arrowheads & bronze spear heads). Many scholars have used the unique Sintashta mortuary
patterns to argue for hierarchical ranking within Sintashta societies (e.g. Koryakova 2002;
Kristiansen & Larsson 2005; Zdanovich & Zdanovich 2002). However, other scholars have
suggested that social stratification is not so clearly patterned when considering all factors such
as spatial layout, tomb elaboration, and grave goods (Vinogradov 2003; Epimakhov 1998;
2002b). For example, the inclusion of items in graves relating to a metallurgical occupation
(e.g. form molds, hammer stones, etc.) is often widely distributed across age and sex categories
in Sintashta cemeteries (Epimakhov 2002a, 144). Chariot burials, which are typically
interpreted as high status warriors or chieftains, are often found as peripheral burials within
mortuary complexes (grouped inhumation burials). And, the distinct lack of external goods
in burials suggests that unequal access to foreign ‘prestige’ items cannot be easily linked to
the emergence and solidification of social authority within these communities. Unfortunately,
detailed bioarchaeological analyses of Sintashta human remains, including physical and chemical
methods, have not been undertaken in order to obtain more specific data on differences in health,
diet, and division of labor by sex and age in recovered mortuary samples. The total numbers of
recovered human remains from Sintashta sites also have been quite low when compared with the
demographic estimates of the settlements (discussed below), as only 200 to 250 known Sintashta
skeletons have been recovered (Epimakhov, forthcoming).

Sintashta Demography
Demographic reconstructions of Sintashta settlements have proven to be problematic, as they
have been based on the available mortuary data, noted above, combined with estimates of the
number of households situated within the fortified area of the settlements. Epimakhov (2002a,
141) has estimated that approximately 640 people could have inhabited the fortified area of a
settlement with perhaps no more than 1,000 being supported by the calculated subsistence value
of the surrounding territory of a 20-30 kilometer radius (Masson 1980, 180). However, such
estimates have not been based on reliable paleoenvironmental data or systematic site catchment
analyses.

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As the inhabitable area of the fortified settlements is rather small, with most having diameters of
120 to 150 meters, it seems highly probable that additional domestic structures would be situated
outside the fortified zones. This is particularly the case for the management of livestock, as
there appears to be no evidence for animal enclosures or stalls within the fortified settlements.
Unfortunately, little systematic investigation of the areas external to the fortifications has been
undertaken – even in cases where a large portion of the fortified area of the settlement has been
excavated (e.g. Arkaim and Ust’ye). In fact, much of the investigation of settlement patterning
has been based on aerial photo analysis and the partial excavation of the fortified areas of the
settlements. Test pitting or auguring in areas external to the fortifications has not been routinely
undertaken. The use of other non-invasive survey techniques, such as geophysics, has been
confined primarily to electrical resistance in the non-excavated portion of the fortified areas and
a recent large-scale fluxgate magnetometer survey undertaken at the Kamennyi Ambar (Ol’gino)
settlement in 2005 by Hanks & Merrony (Hanks, Merrony & Epimakhov forthcoming). Without
additional data on settlement activities, or domestic structure distribution in the immediate
area around the fortified settlements, the relationship between demographic estimates based on
household size and number and the total number of human remains recovered from cemeteries is
completely indeterminable at this time.

Sintashta Subsistence
The socio-economic pattern of the Sintashta settlement sites has been viewed as a stockbreeding
subsistence pattern with main domesticates of horse, cattle, sheep/goat and the addition of either
domesticated or feral pigs (Zdanovich & Zdanovich 2002, 254). However, during previous
excavations of these settlements, little or no soil screening and/or hydro-flotation of soils has
been implemented. Therefore, the recovery of faunal and floral evidence has been strongly
biased. This is particularly important when one considers that Panicum miliaceum (sowing
millet) and Hordeum vulgare (Turkestan barley) were recovered at the Sintashta settlement of
Arkaim, and charred millet husks from a domestic floor context at the settlement of Alandskoe
(Zdanovich & Zdanovich 2002, 255). Additionally, the probable contribution of fish, small
mammals, and domesticated and/or wild plant species in the Sintashta subsistence pattern has
been well established recently by Gayduchenko (2002). Nevertheless, because of a lack of
consistency in soil screening and flotation methods in previous excavations the exact character
of the Sintashta subsistence pattern (and its variability between sites) is at present a completely
open question.

Sintashta Metallurgy
As outlined above, there are a number of important questions surrounding the settlement
patterning, demography and subsistence/productive economy theorized for Sintashta communities.
However, the issue of metallurgy is one that has greatly influenced most interpretations of both the
emergence of the Sintashta pattern as well as variously proposed models for its social complexity
and organization. Archaeological research has revealed that each of the Sintashta house structures
within the fortified zones of the settlements contain one or more wells (or cistern features) and
cupola shaped furnaces, which are believed to be principally connected with smelting activities
(Gening et al. 1992; Zdanovich & Zdanovich 2002; Zdanovich 1997). Other objects connected
with metallurgy, such as pestles, slag and metal droplets, are also routinely recovered from
household contexts. The rather ubiquitous nature of these finds within the settlements, and between

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different settlement sites, suggests that metallurgy was not a specialized activity undertaken by
different individuals or groups within communities or by extension specific settlements and their
communities in the larger region (Epimakhov 2002a, 143).

Nevertheless, while there is ample evidence for metallurgical activities within the household
contexts, there has been general debate over the actual scale of production at Sintashta sites. Some
scholars have suggested a rather high level of specialized community production (Vinogradov
2005; Zdanovich 2002) while others have argued for a much lower level that is more representative
of household production for local utilitarian items and weaponry (Grigor’yev 2000; Chernykh
2004). What is so clearly lacking at this stage in Sintashta scholarship is a detailed comparison
of variation in ore processing, smelting and refining practices between Sintashta settlements. The
recovery of metallurgical processing materials (slags, droplets, hammer stones, tuyures, crucibles,
etc.) is known, but the actual statistical variation in the total number and density of such items
within settlements has not been published and much of this information remains unavailable for
study. For example, Vinogradov has discussed (personal communication) the ‘significant’ amount
of such materials from Ust’ye, a settlement with Sintashta, Petrovka and Srubnaya period activities
(Middle to Late Bronze Age). Such materials appear to be much more substantial than what has
been recovered from sites such as Arkaim (e.g. comparison of Karagly and Arkaim by Chernykh
2004) and recent excavations at Ol’gino, which have produced very little evidence of slag and
other processing debris. Unfortunately, at this time, it is impossible to better substantiate any model
without the availability (publication) of such data for comparison.

Sintashta Mining
One of the most important questions surrounding Sintashta metal production is the lack of
evidence for mining or quarrying near the settlements. This has lead to great speculation over
whether Sintashta societies were exploiting localized ore resources for their needs or were
trading for unprocessed ore and/or partially processed metals (ingots) for on-site refining.
Unfortunately, systematic full coverage surface surveys and site catchment studies have not been
previously undertaken within the micro-regional zones surrounding the settlements. This is not to
say that geological surveys and spectral analyses of slags and ores have not been done and recent
publications have focused on these issues (Grigor’yev 2000; Zaikov et al. 2002).

Nevertheless, the key problem is that most of the identified mines are situated either in the far
eastern, northern or southern zones of the Sintashta settlements distribution (see distribution
in Fig. 1). Most of these mines reveal substantial Late Bronze Age activities, which may have
obliterated the evidence for exploitation of ore material during the previous Middle Bronze Age
phase. For example, it has been estimated that nearly 6,000 tons of ore, bearing approximately 2-
3% copper, was mined from the site of Vorovskaya Yama – one of the nearest confirmed Bronze
Age mines to the Sintashta settlements (Grigoriev 2002:84; Zaikov, Zdanovich, and Yuminov
1995). However, differentiating between Middle and Late Bronze exploitation of sites such as
these is extremely problematic. Moreover, spectral analyses of metals from Sintashta sites have
not provided conclusive evidence of specific zones (ores) of exploitation. In general, objects made
of pure copper, arsenical copper and arsenifferous bronze have been recovered from Sintashta
sites. Objects comprising stanniferrous bronze are relatively rare (ornaments, primarily) and
believed to have been imported into the region (Zaikov et al. 2002). This, combined with the

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now well recognized problems of regional ore sourcing and recycling for prehistoric and early
historic metallurgical production in Eurasia in general (e.g. Cernych 2003, 53-55; Kohl 2007, 167),
suggest that scholarship has only just begun to scratch the surface of the problems surrounding ore
exploitation and exchange between Sintashta populations.

Further to this, Grigor’yev’s research has indicated something quite interesting. He states that, “the
smelting of ores from ultra basic ore-bearing rocks and serpentine, that contain insignificant levels
of copper is a curious paradox of Sintashta metallurgy. A great number of ore deposits of other types
that are rich in copper are present in the Urals, but no evidence has surfaced for the use of such pure
ores by the Sintashta metallurgists” (2000, 143). This information is important for several reasons.
First, it suggests that sites of regional ore exploitation identified by geologists as highly ‘probable’
for early mining, based on higher levels of copper within ore-bearing strata, may not have been
those principally exploited by Sintashta miners. Second, it is possible that Sintashta communities
exploited near-surface exposed ore-bearing rocks that provided only ephemeral deposits of
copper. Such a pattern would suggest a lower level of production in some areas, and by certain
communities, and that the recognition of such quarrying, or mining, would be difficult without
better-localized surveys. This would certainly seem to correlate with Grigor’yev’s findings noted
above. Third, it is obvious that ore resources were highly variable within the Sintashta region and
that the distribution of settlements would need to be linked with specific ore deposits or to develop
trading networks and strategies for obtaining ores or partially processed metals for their needs. In
any case, much more emphasis needs to be placed on understanding the relationship of settlements
to their local catchement zones.

Integrating Practice, Scale & Community


We suggest that the problems outlined above for Sintashta metallurgy require not only new
methods of field research but also new conceptual approaches. For example, recent trends in the
study of mining communities have emphasized a number of important characteristics associated
with this form of industry and craft specialization (Knapp et al. 1998; Levy 2003; Linduff 2004;
Topping & Lynott 2005; Yener 2000). As Knapp has suggested, the investigation of mining
activities must include not only technological aspects but also the socio-economic, spatial and
ideological dimensions of groups or communities engaged in this activity (1998, 2). In fact,
scholars have advocated moving beyond a focus on settlement sites to the more conceptual
model of community as the primary unit of investigation for material evidence relating to mining
activities (Hardesty 1988, 101; Knapp et al. 1998, 13). This approach correlates well with recent
theoretical trends in archaeology, which favor the community as a mid-level unit of analysis for
the investigation of socio-spatial settings. In this way, the concept of community organization
extends beyond traditional perceptions of settlement sites as mere aggregations of households
and as the primary loci for societal organization and activity (Kolb & Snead 1997; Canuto &
Yaeger 2000; Anderson 1991; Cohen 1985). Such a perspective provides a crucial theoretical
framework for investigating variation in socio-spatial settings at the local, or micro-regional
level, which can be defined as a spatial sphere of human activity existing between the immediate
site level and larger regional settlement patterns (e.g. Kolb & Snead 1997; Gaffney & Gaffney
1988). This provides a more coherent and effective model for investigating the unique spatial,
temporal and social conditions of mining and metallurgical production activities and how they
intersect with local landscapes and environmental resources (Kassianidou & Knapp 2005, 235).

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Research focused on the specific technological aspects of metal production, such as ore
processing, roasting and smelting, and metal alloying are vital components in the investigation of
early metallurgy. However, when attempting to expand beyond the specific chaînes opératoires of
local technological knowledge, in order to evaluate the broader social and economic forces that
structure mining communities, it is necessary to evaluate several other lines of material evidence
(Knapp et al. 1998, 9). Such evidence should include a stronger focus on human-environment
relationships, subsistence and socio-economic orientations and social organization.

Human-environment relationships relate to the very practical concern of community access to


and utilization of ore, water, clay, and timber resources. These materials are absolutely necessary
even at the basic level of metallurgical production and with the exception of water may be finite
locally or regionally. The durability, and suitability, of ore, clay and timber resources therefore
may act as significant limiting agents in the longer-term growth of productive economies and/or
territorial expansion. For example, while the discovery and analysis of regional ore resources has
been of paramount concern to archaeometallurgy research, the production of charcoal is often
completely overlooked in studies of early metalworking (Horne 1982). It has been estimated that
to produce 5 kilograms of copper metal at least 100 kilograms of charcoal is required (Harding
2000, 217). To produce 100 kilograms of charcoal 700 kilograms of timber is necessary. This
statistic is startling in terms of the sheer quantity of wood resources that would be required for
intensive mining and smelting processes. Moreover, the human and animal power required for
the extraction and transport of wood resources, especially over long distances, is an important
factor to consider when estimating metallurgical production activities and site catchment
limitations.

Defining the resource potential of a particular region, and how communities spatially organize
themselves in response to the exploitation of such resources, are common goals in most regional
or micro-regional surveys. However, with respect to mining communities, settlement and other
human activities may be quite distinctive. For example, residency patterns may be variable with
larger year round settlements existing in addition to camps or smaller settlements situated closer
to ore and timber resources. Processing and production activities at these sites may also leave
material evidence in the form of open pit and/or shaft mining, large pits for the preparation of
charcoal and roasting of ore material, ore processing debris, and furnaces for smelting (Craddock
1995, 190). Fortunately, activities such as these, depending upon scale and longevity, can leave
visible archaeological traces that may be located through full coverage surface survey and/or
aerial-satellite imagery.

The spatial aspects of mining and processing activities also connect with the second factor noted
above, subsistence and socio-economic orientations, as these are also important considerations
when investigating the relationship between mining communities and their local environment.
One of the most important questions to be asked of such specialized community organization
is how basic subsistence needs are met. Highly specialized mining groups, perhaps somewhat
ephemeral to other local or regional communities because of their habitation near ore bearing
locations, may be involved in such activities full time and year round. In this case, their general
subsistence needs are provided for through contact and exchange with other local groups (Green

9
2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

1995; Shennan 1998, 197). Another possible orientation would be communities that engage in
mining and metallurgy only seasonally, perhaps in the winter, when they would not be engaged
in time constraining subsistence activities such as agriculture or pastoralism (Bellamy 1904;
Given & Knapp 2000; Herbert 1984; 1998). In both hypothetical situations, the total level of
metal production need not be exceedingly high and may relate to a broader regional or inter-
regional trade and exchange orientation between intermediate level societies. In this case,
relationships between mining communities and groups with other socio-economic orientations
exist at a level of autonomy with little or no centralized political control. However, this model
stands in stark contrast to much of the literature on the emergence of elite factions linked with
the production and circulation of metal commodities in later prehistory in Europe and Asia
(Gilman 1981; Kristiansen 1984; Kristiansen 1998; Kristiansen & Larsson 2005; Maddin 1988;
Sherratt & Sherratt 1991). This is where the third issue noted above, social organization,
becomes a crucial element in the investigation of local community patterns and their relationship
to broader regional social and political dynamics.

Some scholars have argued that too great an emphasis has been placed on theorizing the forces
of elite control which can exist over metal production and trade (Shennan 1998; Yenner 2000).
However, the potential wealth, prestige, symbolism, and ideological factors surrounding metals
and metalworking can provide the material foundation for emergent inequality and tension
between social groups and can significantly impact the nature of social organization and task
specialization. Such change has been illustrated through numerous historic, ethnographic
and archaeological case studies (Knapp et al. 1998; Godoy 1985; Chapman 2003; Levy 1993;
Kassianidou & Knapp 2005). For example, at the larger scale these may represent full-time
specialists that are part of, and supported by, a much broader multi-component society. At a
smaller scale, communities may be made up of men, women and children who either specialize
in metallurgy and obtain subsistence through trade with other groups or undertake mining and
metallurgy only seasonally for local production purposes. Numerous ethno-historical accounts
have shown that men, women, and children as young as five to six years of age take active roles
in providing the necessary labor for ore extraction and processing (Herbert 1998; 1984; Bellamy
1904). The social organization required for such labor-intensive activities can have a profound
impact on the demographic patterns of communities in terms of higher fertility and mortality
profiles and debilitation linked to work or trauma related injuries and pathologies (Knapp 1998,
11). While the ethnographic present or recent historical past cannot be directly mapped onto our
interpretations of prehistory, such studies nevertheless suggest that there are a number of social
dimensions, vertical and horizontal, that archaeologists must keep in mind when investigating
the material correlates of metal producing groups and the patterns of social organization of their
members.

The archaeological investigation of such issues, as discussed above, may be undertaken through
multi-scalar research ranging from household organization and production to broader regional
settlement patterning (Shennan 1998; Kassianidou & Knapp 2005). However, the investigation of
mortuary evidence, when available, also offers excellent potential for examining social structure
based on cemetery spatial organization, differential energy expenditure in tomb construction,
and in grave goods provisioning. Furthermore, by undertaking biological analyses of human
skeletal remains another line of evidence can be used to comparatively examine social patterns of

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2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

health, diet and inequality (Larsen 1997; Robb et al. 2001; Pechenkina et al. 2006; Powel 1988;
1991). For example, when viewed within the context of mining and metallurgical production,
bioarchaeological research may yield important data relating to repetitive activities that lead to
osteoarthritis and activity induced skeletal stress markers, elevated levels of trace elements in
bones connected with toxic smoke inhalation from metals processing (e.g. arsenic – see Lindh et
al. 1980; Tsiashala et al. 1990; Oakberg et al. 2000), and dietary-nutrition variations in the types
of foods consumed that may be associated with social organization and/or inequality among
community members. While these physical and chemical indicators can be an effective way of
gaining primary data for inequality and ranking among members of a society, they also may
provide an important perspective on sex, gender, and age patterns and therefore offer another
dimension in the study of mining community health, structure, and social organization with
regard to production and subsistence practices.

With regard to these important considerations, we now would like to briefly discuss some
preliminary data from recent fieldwork in the southern Urals at the Sintashta sites of Ol’gino and
Stepnoye. This research, planned for 2007 - 2010 is funded by the National Science Foundation
and Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, has been structured according to the
theoretical and methodological issues outlined above. Much of the data below is very preliminary
in nature, however, it does suggest some new points of view for Sintashta metallurgy and socio-
economic organization.

Recent Collaborative Field Research 2007


Recent collaborative works by the authors with British and Russian teams at Ol’gino and
Stepnoye have provided opportunities to examine a number of important problems surrounding
the Sintashta development. The first site is the settlement of Ol’gino, which is situated with two
other Sintashta period settlements (Konoplyanka and Zhurumbai) in the Karagaily Ayat River
valley (Fig. 3). The main focus of collaborative work in this area (2005-2007), in conjunction
with A. Epimakhov and L. Koryakova (Russian Academy of Sciences, Urals Branch), has been
the settlement of Ol’gino and its immediate locale, including the Kamennyi Ambar 5 cemetery.
A more detailed discussion of this project work is forthcoming in two publications (Hanks,
N

W E

2
1

0 2 km

Figure 3. Map of Kargaily-Ayat River Valley indicating location of archaeological sites and geophysics surveys (1
– Varshavka Village; 2 – Sintashta settlement Zhurumbai; 3 – Area of Sintashta settlement Ol’gino and Kamennyi
Ambar 5 cemetery).

11
2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

Epimakhov and Merrony, forthcoming; Hanks et al., forthcoming), which include the results of
topographic survey, geophysics and stratigraphic excavation (Fig. 4). However, in this paper,
we would like to focus specifically on recent work by Doonan during the 2007 season north
of the Ol’gino settlement as this relates to a broader area survey of the settlement locale. This
work comprised a pedestrian survey over an area of 50 hectares (1km x 0.5km) and involved
the characterization of pit and trench features, which had been tentatively identified as being
associated with some form of quarrying and or mining. The survey was undertaken with the
aim of identifying candidate features for excavation so as to further our understanding of the
processes associated with their formation, aspects of resource perception and to elucidate the
geological context.
N

W E
dirt
road
S

dam
arth

Ka
ne

rg
ail
der

y-A
ya
mo

tR
ive
r 1

3 K-2
up
pe
rt
err
ac
eo
fr
4 ive
r
K-4

tree line
K-7
K-3 tree line
2 tree line

arable land

arable land
0 250 m tree line

Figure 4. Plan of investigated archaeological features and geophysics survey blocks: 1 – Ol’gino fortified settle-
ment; 2 – area of unexcavated kurgan 7 feature; 3 & 4 – survey blocks between previously excavated kurgan com-
plexes.

Ol’gino
The Karagaily Ayat valley is well watered and apparently provided crucial natural resources for
three Sintashta settlement communities. Settlement and mortuary activities in the valley are well
documented for the Middle and Late Bronze Age phases and a number of Iron Age and medieval
mortuary sites have been investigated as well. The appearance of three Sintashta settlements
in such close proximity to each other immediately raises questions about their relationship.

12
2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

For example, were these settlements occupied contemporaneously and autonomous or were
they somehow connected in terms of socio-economic organization and production? Or, do they
perhaps represent three separate relocations of a single smaller community after the degradation
of resources in an immediate site catchment area (approximately 4-5 km radius)? Questions
such as these can only be answered through more intensive investigations of the settlements and
their relationships with their local environments. However, such settlement distributions appear
to contradict the model of larger catchement zones between Sintashta settlements or that such
communities were strikingly autonomous (as discussed above)

With these questions in mind, Roger Doonan undertook a survey of a widespread pattern
of what appeared to be prehistoric surface pitting and trenching near the Ol’gino settlement
– features that had been dismissed by local archaeologists as indicative of modern or early
historic period activities. Nevertheless, a survey of the area revealed a number of important
characteristics. Pit and trench features were not a ubiquitous feature of the environment around
the settlement at Ol’gino. Prior to the systematic transect survey a casual pedestrian survey
of the area identified a region where such features were concentrated. This concentration of
features begins approximately 250m north of the site and fans out to a width of a kilometer and
extends approximately 1 km north from the site (Fig. 5). It was observed that the underlying
geology changes from metamorphic schists about 1.25km west of the settlement to a fine-grained
intermediate metamorphic quartzite. The results of transect survey revealed most features located
on the tops of low ridges which ran N-S from the settlement. This was unsurprising as it was at
such locations where the topsoil was thinnest and allowed the underlying geology to outcrop.

Figure 5. Map of pit and quarry features surveyed north of Ol’gino settlement.

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2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

In light of the emphasis given to metallurgical production at Sintashta sites (see above), the
potential for these sites to be associated with copper mining was assessed. The archaeology of
copper mining has undergone significant developments in recent decades not only in the Steppe
region (Chernykh 2002a; 2002b; 2004) but also on a more international level with important
discoveries made in NW and central Europe (Timberlake 2003; Pickin 1990; Höppner 2005), the
Mediterranean (Bassiakos Philaniotou 2007, Rothenberg 1990), South America (Merkel et al.
1994) and the Middle East (Pigott 1999). From these diverse studies it is possible to envisage
the characteristics of a prehistoric copper mine. A majority of excavations have revealed simple
stone hammers, and spoil heaps often containing residual mineral. Early mines are usually
associated with the near surface outcrops of mineral and may be in contact with gossan bodies or
heavy quartz veining. Fire setting seems to be the most usual technique for loosening the mineral
at the working face (Lewis 1990, Craddock 1995:58) and when worked with stone hammers and
wedges leaves a characteristic smooth ‘fire set’ profile.

Many of the pit and trench features examined at Ol’gino were associated with spoil heaps which
suggested that their formation was associated with extraction. Systematic investigation of many
spoil heaps failed to detect the presence of either secondary oxide or primary sulphide copper
minerals. Whilst the presence of quartz veining, and its association with small areas of gossans,
suggested the possibility of mineralization, the absence of any surface tools or ‘fire set’ profiles
on the trenches and pits mitigated against their identification as the remnants of copper mining.

The excavation of one trench feature and its associated spoil heap (OLG07RD21) (Fig. 6)
found no evidence of copper mineral residues in the spoil heap nor were any copper minerals
associated with a prominent quartz vein at the southern end of the trench. The spoil heap
comprised of small shattered fragments of quartz
and metamorphic quartzite (3-20cm across
maximum axis). Nevertheless, it is important to
note that no fragments of modern material culture
were identified in the spoilheap, the trench fill,
or in the vicinity of the trench. This absence of
modern material culture was also noted around all
other trench and pit features with the exception of
OLG07RD13, which was in close association with
a building and located at some distance from the
main concentration of pits and trenches (Fig. 5).

Excavation of OLG07RD21 exposed a working


surface of what resembled a small-scale quarry.
The total absence of copper mineralization coupled
with evidence of the quartzite beds being worked
(Fig. 7) suggests that these pits and trenches
were associated with the exploitation of coherent
Figure 6. Photo of excavation of ancient (?) trench feature
(OLG07RD21).

14
2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

Figures 7 & 8. Figure 7 (left) shows spoil material from quartzite bed quarry and Figure 8 (right) details large
rectangular stone block.

blocks of quartzite. It was apparent that the surface outcrop of quartzite was heavily shattered
and badly weathered making it impossible to extract sizable blocks. Excavation of the pits to
a depth of approximately 1m to remove the surface weathered material seemingly revealed
bodies of coherent quartzite. Excavation of trenches in and around quartz veins appears to
have been undertaken so as to take advantage of the natural plane of weakness associated at
the contact between Quartzite and Quartz. Whilst such evidence is forthcoming from trench
OLF07RD21evidence for the mode of working and the kinds of blocks extracted from these pits
are clearly evident at features OLG07RD30, 36 and 38 (Fig.8). Feature OLG07RD38 clearly
shows the step profile associated with the removal of blocks presumably with the use of wedges
(Fig. 9).

Although we cannot be certain to what use these extracted blocks were put it seems most likely
that they fulfilled some architectural function at the nearby Sintashta settlement. For example,
excavations at Ol’gino have revealed sections of the enclosure bank that are reinforced with
blocks of the same type of stone (Fig. 10). A relationship between the settlement and quarry pits
is further supported by the wider geological context. As stated above, not only is the greatest
concentration of quarry pits in the vicinity of the settlement but also the settlement itself is sited
on intermediate metamorphics barely a kilometer from the contact with schists. The location of
the settlement therefore suggests that it was purposefully situated at a strategic location to access
appropriate materials to use in settlement architecture.

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2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

Figures 9 & 10. Figure 9 (left) is a photo of quarry area for block material and Figure 10 is a photo of the removal
of flanking stones from fortification ditch at the Ol’gino settlement (photo courtesy of S. Senekosov).

Stepnoye
In addition to work at Ol’gino in 2007, the authors began a new collaborative project with
Dmitri Zdanovich and Southern Ural State University in the summer of 2007 at the settlement
and cemetery site of Stepnoye. This site is one of the most unique of the Sintashta settlements
as it contains the largest Middle Bronze cemetery in the southern Urals region, which consists
of at least 45 kurgan structures dating from the Middle to Late Bronze Age (i.e. Sintashta,
Petrovka, Alakul’ and Srubnaya cultural materials). Moreover, another paired Sintashta
settlement (Chernorechye) and cemetery (Krivoe Ozero) is situated 15 kilometers to the south
east of Stepnoye. No open plan large-scale excavation of either settlement has been undertaken
in the past, although the Krivoe Ozero (Anthony and Vinogradov 1995; Vinogradov 2003)
and Stepnoye cemetery have been partially excavated. It must be noted that only a cursory
examination of the Stepnoye site and its local environment were undertaken in 2007, however,
the analysis of slags recovered from the surface of the settlement area along with an example
from a stratified deposit have revealed some important characteristics.

All slag samples recovered were fractured and ranged in size from 1-4 cm (major axis). All
conformed to a single type, a grey-black plate slag (Fig. 11) that was approximately 7-12mm
thick. Although fractured, several pieces of slag preserved an original outer edge that enabled the
complete form to be reconstructed. The fragments suggest that they derive from a circular plate
slag of approximately 25cm diameter. The texture on the upper surface indicates that the slag has
cooled quickly, possibly having been quenched with water. The lower surface appears to have
solidified whilst floating on a liquid, presumably molten metal. A smooth continuous indentation
on the underside edge of some samples was reminiscent of the meniscus of a molten pool of
metal confirming that these slags had solidified whilst in contact with molten metal. All slag
fragments examined were uniformly grey-black and had no visible inclusions of mineral, gangue
or charcoal. The overall appearance was of a homogenous, fine-grained crystalline material.
Localized spots of copper corrosion products suggested that these slags were associated with
some aspect of copper metallurgy.

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2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

Figures 11 & 12. Figure 11 (left) is a photo of grey-black plate slags from Stepnoye settlement and Figure 12 (right)
is a photo of slag material from Stepnoye settlement with multiphase sulphide inclusions

Preliminary microstructural analysis of the slags identified the presence of numerous metallic
inclusions. The most common metallic inclusions were copper prills surrounded by a sulphide
phase. Whilst multiphase sulphide inclusions were common (Fig. 12), copper prills did not occur
without direct association with sulphide. Detailed examination of 14 samples failed to identify
a single ore mineral or gangue inclusion. The absence of any such inclusions suggests that
these slags were not derived from a primary production step involving the conversion of ore to
metal but instead represent a subsequent refining or secondary processing step. All slags were
predominantly iron silicate with a fine-grained lath structure. Most examples had free iron oxides
in the form of magnetite spinels. The presence of trivalent iron minerals indicates that the slags
formed in oxidizing conditions.

The presence of copper sulphides in a slag, which appears to have been formed in mildly
reducing to oxidizing conditions, suggests that it is a matte conversion slag. Unlike the
production of copper from weathered oxide ores, copper is rarely produced in a single step from
sulphide ores. From a chemo-technical perspective there are several pathways by which sulphide
minerals can be transformed into copper metal.

The most straightforward method involves roasting the ore until all the sulphur is removed and
then smelting the ore in a reducing environment (pathway one).

CuFeS2 +3O2 CuO +FeO +2SO2

C+O2 CO2 CO2+C 2CO


(furnace operates with excess C-reducing environment)

CuO +CO Cu(m) + CO2

The second method involves a partial roast followed by a co-smelt (pathway two).

2CuFeS2 + 3O2 CuO +FeO(slag) + CuS+ FeS + 2SO2

17
2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

The products of a partial roast may then be co-smelted in a mildly oxidizing smelt.

2CuO+CuS 3Cu(metal) + SO2

FeS+CuO CuS +FeO(slag)

The third method involves an initial step of smelting the sulphide ores to produce an enriched
copper matte (a metalloid substance comprising copper, iron and sulphur) and then the
conversion of the matte to copper in an oxidizing environment.

2CuFeS2 + heat CuFeS+S

CuFeS+heat CuS+FeS+FeO(slag)

The matte (CuS+FeS) is then either dead roasted and reduction smelted, partially roasted and
resmelted or ‘converted’.

Matte conversion follows the following pathway.

CuS +3FeS +5O2 CuS +Fe3O4(slag) +3SO2

Since copper has a higher affinity for sulphur than iron, the copper will remain sulphidized until
all the FeS is oxidized and slagged off. When all Fe is removed CuS is converted to copper
according to the following equation.

CuS+O2 Cu(metal) + SO2

These differing pathways are important to acknowledge since they provide an insight into the
practicalities of technological organization. Preliminary analysis suggests that the slags from
Stepnoye are derived from the final step in Pathway three. Unless other classes of slag are
forthcoming from the settlement then it seems that the Sintashta metallurgical tradition was a
segmented process with only the latter steps of production been undertaken at the settlement
site. The immediate implication of this is that future surveys in the vicinity of Sintashta sites
must anticipate other types of metallurgical sites which, to date, have not been recognized.
Furthermore, if the copper production process is a ‘segmented’ process then there are issues
of control and access that need to be considered. More specifically, one can ask the important
question – what is the relationship between the control of mineral deposits and the primary
production sites, so far unidentified, and how do these articulate with the settlement sites?

The Stepnoye region is an ideal study area to answer these questions since it is amongst the most
mineral rich areas of Western Siberia with this mineral wealth coinciding with a density and
intensity of Sintashta activity (Fig. 13). Preliminary reconnaissance in the area around Stepnoye
has idenitifed six potential early mining sites all with surface outcrops of ore (see Fig. 14).
Casual sampling of the spoil heaps associated with these mines identified azurite and malachite
(secondary weathered ores) and sulphide ores specifically chalcopyrite. Whilst initial survey

18
2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

Figure 13. Plan of Middle to Late Bronze Age Stepnoye settlement and cemetery: 1 – edge of arable land; 2 – dirt
road; 3 – pit features; 4 – kurgan mound; 5 – oval depression (house or domestic feature); 6 – settlement fortifi-
cation features; 7 – settlement ‘zone’; 8 – excavated kurgan; 9 – partially excavated kurgan (plan courtesy of D.
Zdanovich).

Figure 14. General map of Stepnoye settlement area and local geological resources.

19
2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

has not yet identified evidence for prehistoric mining, i.e. hammerstones or fire setting, the
surface outcropping of the ores and the apparently rich mineralization all offer good potential for
these deposits to have been exploited in prehistory. It is also significant that the rich yet limited
size of many deposits has meant that they were unattractive prospects for later industrial scale
exploitation, this means that the potential for early evidence to still exist is high.

Bioarchaeology Study – Kamennyi Ambar 5 Cemetery


In addition to the recent preliminary archaeometallurgical research at the settlements of Ol’gino
and Stepnoye presented above, a Wenner-Gren funded project has been operating since the
summer of 2007 and is focused on the bioarchaeological anlaysis of human remains (n = 82)
previously recovered from the cemetery of (KA 5) Kamennyi Ambar 5 (Epimakhov 2005), which
is associated with the Ol’gino settlement (Fig. 4). This project includes both a detailed chemical
(i.e. stable isotopes and trace elements) and physical analysis of the skeletal remains and seeks
to investigate evidence of status and health differentiation between individuals (e.g. muscle
activity markers, osteoarthritis, respiratory infections from toxic smoke inhalation, etc.). This
includes variation connected with activities that may be associated with mining, quarrying, metal
smithing, archery, horseback riding, conflict/warfare, etc.

The chemical studies are currently ongoing, however, preliminary information from the physical
analysis (Kovacik and Judd 2008) has indicated very little evidence of activity related variation
between individuals or in fact any poor health/diet indicators. The paleodemography of the KA 5
cemetery presents a high frequency of children and adolescents, with few older adults recovered.
Nevertheless, both the metrical and paleopathological analyses do not support the hypothesis of
a population with high levels of disease processes, heavy manual labor or conflict and warfare.
The KA 5 data was compared with the remains of 31 individuals analyzed from the excavation of
the Bolshekaragansky cemetery, believed to be associated with the Arkaim settlement (Lindstrom
2002). Similar observations in terms of overall health and trauma were found at this Sintashta
cemetery as well. A full publication of the KA 5 bioarchaeological study is planned once the
chemical analyses are completed this year, however, the results thus far have not indicated
that the individuals buried within the 3 excavated kurgans were impacted by heavy workloads
and stresses or unhealthy living conditions. Additional studies stemming from this project will
include the results of geophysics surveys in the cemetery area, which have indicated another
likely kurgan structure and other possible burial pit features (Hanks, Merrony & Epimakhov,
forthcoming), and a multi-variant statistical analysis of the grave goods and spatial organization
of the previously excavated kurgans. Data stemming from projects such as this provide an
important complementary line of evidence for comparison with settlement and micro-regional
studies. It is hoped that a broader comparative study of other recovered Sintashta human remains
will be possible in the near future in order to extend on the KA 5 project results.

Conclusion
In this paper we have attempted to outline some of the most problematic aspects of the study of
early metallurgy in the Central Asia region, with a particular focus on the enigmatic Sintashta
development. Recent field work at the sites of Ol’gino and Stepnoye have revealed several
important problems with the way in which conventional research has been undertaken at these
sites. First, excavation of the fortified zones of Sintashta settlements has been routinely given

20
2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

the highest priority and more detailed, systematic surveys of local catchement zones have not
been stressed. Second, the lack of geophysics and test pitting or auguring around the immediate
vicinity of the fortified areas has left these areas of the settlements completely untouched. As
such, the broader organization and use of the settlements is unknown. Third, and perhaps most
importantly, a more nuanced theoretical structure for interpreting Sintashta societies has not been
developed – with the result being that emphasis continues to be placed on hierarchical societies
that can be compared with ‘chiefdom’, or intermediate level, societies. Such an orientation
deflects critical questions about the nature of ore exploitation, trade and exchange and the
possibility of metal production being a segmented practice in the Sintashta area. As outlined
in this paper, we suggest that most of these problems can be overcome through the utilization
of more recent anthropological and archaeological approaches to early mining. Such research
favors the ‘community’ concept and draws on comparative ethno-historical case studies of metal
producing societies to better theorize the practice of metallurgical production and the socio-
economic characteristics of such societies. While the data presented in this paper is preliminary
at this stage, we have tried to provide an overview of the questions driving our research as well
as the multi-disciplinary nature of our methods and field strategies. The Sintashta case study
strongly reflects some of the key problems currently confronting the broader study of early
metallurgical production and trade and their relationship to local forms of social organization
and human-environment orientations. To overcome these challenges, new conceptual models and
field strategies must be employed in future research.

Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank the session organizers, Ben Roberts and Chris Thornton,
for their invitation to contribute this paper and their patience during its preparation. We also
would like to thank the following individuals and institutions for their generous support of
our collaborative field research in the southern Urals, from which this paper originates: A.
Epimakhov, L. Koryakova, D. Zdanovich, E. Zdanovich, C. Merrony, E. Efimova and students of
Ural State University, Southern Ural State University and Chelyabinsk State University. We also
gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation and Wenner-
Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Any mistakes within the article are the sole
responsibility of the authors.

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2008 SAA Paper/ "From Scale to Practice"/ B. Hanks & Roger Doonan

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