HOME Abstracts for a Symposium on Mobile People in Archaeology
 Society for American Archaeology, Montreal (Canada), Friday 2 April 2004

This session will discuss how nomadism can be defined, characterized and recognized in the archaeological record of both the Old World and the Americas. The participants will explore the relation of (pre)historic nomadic populations with their environment and the settled population, based on archaeological, historical and/or ethnoarchaeological sources (some practical information for the participants can be found here).

Steve Rosen (Department of Archaeology, Ben-Gurion University, Israel) will be discussant during this panel which will be chaired by Hans Barnard and Willeke Wendrich (University of California, Los Angeles).

Willeke Wendrich (Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles): Before we can even begin to broach questions on how to recognize nomads archaeologically, on whether nomads have territories and ownership of land or resources, on the relation between the nomadic and the settled population, on the social organization of nomadic populations, etcetera, we will first have to define what nomadism is. This paper explores different approaches and discusses the various archaeological and anthropological definitions of nomadism in order to clarify the discourse and have a common ground on which to position and discuss the contributions of the symposium at the SAA Meeting and the follow-up seminar in Los Angeles.

David Browman (Department of Anthropology, Washington University Saint Louis): The vertical ecology, coupled with variations in precipitation, and camelids with seasonal migration behavioral patterns, made the prehistoric Central Andes an ideal locale for pastoral nomadism. Evidence from Central Peru to Northwest Argentina is reviewed, summarizing the evidence from as early as seven millennia ago, as well as relict nomadic groups that persisted into the 20th century.

Hans Barnard (Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles): Much like their settled counterparts, nomadic people frequently use very distinctive ethnic markers, cultural as well as material. Pottery is not usually associated with nomads as elaborate installations are thought to be necessary for its production. Proof to the contrary has recently come to light, in California and in Egypt. Research on ancient material, as well as experiments on modern, show that pottery must certainly be considered in the study of nomadism.

Reinhard Bernbeck (Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University): Ideas about the development of nomadism in the Near East depend heavily on ethnographies and ethnoarchaeology because of the assumption that mobile groups do not leave enough traces for reliable reconstruction of their lifeways. I argue for a less presentist approach and focus on one aspect of nomadism, mobility. Mobility of archaeologically attested groups must be accounted for on several scales. In addition to seasonality, potentially identifiable through faunal and palaeobotanical remains, mid-term mobility must be taken into account. One way to do so is an analysis of small-scale stratigraphic events and their absolute chronological relationships. Such research may lead to revisions of 'analogical nomadism' in archaeology.

Jeffrey Brantingham (Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles) : While the field of ecology has witnessed significant advances in both the analysis of animal movement and in building models to predict the effects of movement on population and community dynamics, Paleolithic archaeologists, with a few notable exceptions, have contented themselves with classifying human movement into residential (forager) or logistical (collector) modes. Can this be all there is to know about the organization of human movement in the distant past? Drawing on null models in ecology, a neutral model of forager movement is developed. The model is used to evaluate whether the residential-logistical mobility continuum provides an effective standard for archaeological inquiry.

Esther Jacobson-Tepfer (Department of Art History, University of Oregon): Academic understandings of economic patterns and belief systems among the Early Nomads of late Bronze Age North Asia have hitherto been based on mortuary contexts, Indo-Iranian mythic traditions, and ethnographic sources.  Most recently, revitalized theories of prehistoric shamanism have been applied to petroglyphic imagery from this period and region with far reaching results. This discussion uses petroglyphic imagery from the Altay Mountains of Russia and Mongolia to challenge these interpretative strategies and proposes alternate approaches more appropriate to the self-representation of the late Bronze Age Early Nomads of North Asia.

Steven Brandt (Department of Anthropology, University of Florida) and Juris Zarins (Department of Anthropology, Southwest Missouri State University): Traditional models argue that the origin of Semitic-speaking peoples that are tied closely to Mesopotamian cultures that arose following the original settlements of the lower Mesopotamian alluvium, around 5500 BC. Drawing upon recent archaeological, linguistic and genetic data, this paper suggests an alternative model in which early Neolithic Afro-Asiatic speaking nomadic pastoralists from Northeastern Africa were the first to introduce pre-Semitic languages and an African form of nomadic pastoralism to Arabia and the Near East. Implications of this model for the importance of pastoral nomadism in clarifying issues related to the socio-economic prehistory and history of these regions are discussed.

Benjamin Saidel (W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research): Research conducted in the Negev desert has broadly identified those areas inhabited by pastoral nomads and agricultural populations during the 6th-8th centuries AD. Analysis of archaeological and textual data from this area has led to the conclusion that these pastoral nomads were integrated into the local economy of the Byzantine Empire. In this paper the cooking pots found at pastoral campsites in this portion of the Negev are used as a marker to determine how these economic relationships impacted the socio-economic organization of these pastoral nomads.
Introduction to the project Information for participants
Style sheet for contributors
Click here to view the Table of Contents of the draft manuscript and quotes from the two anonymous peer-reviewers (October 2006)
Salt Lake City, Spring 2005: Panel on Archaeological Residue Analysis
Panel on Ancient Apprenticeship
The fourth Cotsen Advanced Seminar on Nomadism is made possible by:
 - the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA;
 - UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures;
UCLA International Institute, Special Academic Cooperative Projects;
 - and all individual participants.

Cotsen Institute of
                          Archaeoloy Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA
P.O.-box 951510; Los Angeles, CA 90095