HOME Abstracts for a Workshop on Mobile People in Archaeology
Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, Los Angeles (CA, USA), 22-24 June 2004

This workshop will concentrate on 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).

Part of the sessions will be used to discuss the written contributions that have made the 'soft' deadline of  Saturday 19 June 2004. Another part will entail a video conference with participants on different continents (video recordings of the presentations can be found here).

The final deadline for contributing to the volume is Monday 15 November 2004, production and publication of a volume are expected shortly after that. The title for the publication will be: 'The Archaeology of Mobility. Nomads in the Old and in the New World' (some guidelines for contributors can be found here).

Program workshop 'Nomads in Archaeology'; 22-24 June 2004
Fowler Museum Room A222; UCLA Campus; Los Angeles; USA

Tuesday 22 June 2004, morning session
Theme: '
And perhaps to live that nomadic life is to be touched in the head in some way (V.S. Naipaul, Among the Believers)'; or: Can we come to a definition of nomadism, beyond an intuitive one, and do we really need to?

09:00-09:30 Hans Barnard and Willeke Wendrich: "Welcome and Introduction"
09:30:10:00 Roger Cribb: "Mobility, Conflict and the Negotiation of Space"
(view abstract, view video)
10:00-10:30 coffee break
10:30-11:00 Steve Rosen: "Desert Pastoral Nomadism in the
Longue Durée" (view abstract, view video)
11:00-11:30 Willeke Wendrich: "
Adaptation or Marginalization" (view abstract, view video)
11:30:12:30 questions and discussion

Tuesday 22 June 2004, afternoon session
Theme: '
They'd call us gypsies, tramps, and thieves / But every night all the men would come around / And lay their money down (Cher 1971)'; or: What is typical for the material culture of nomadic peoples, what kind of records do they leave and what does this mean for archaeology and anthropology

13:30-14:00 Alison Betts: "Things to do with Sheep and Goats" (view abstract, view video)
14:00-14:30 Brooke Milne: "Colonization, Landscapes and Mobility"
(view abstract, view video)
14:30-15:00 tea break
15:00-15:30 Hans Barnard: "Microtraces of a Lost People"
(view abstract, view video)
15:30-16:00 Jelmer Eerkens: "Pottery Production and Mobility" (view abstract, view video)
16:00-17:00 questions and discussion

18:00: Conference dinner (on invitation by the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures only)

Wednesday 23 June 2004, morning session
Theme: '
These are nomads and neither many nor warlike, although they were believed to be so by the ancients because of their frequent raids on defenceless people (Strabo, Geography 17.1.53)'; or: What is typical for the historic records concerning nomadic peoples and how do they interact with the settled groups that surround them?

09:00-09:30 Jeffrey Szuchman: "Mobility and Sedentarization in Bronze Age Syria" (view abstract, view video)
09:30-10:00 Stanley Burstein: "Trogodytes = Blemmyes = Beja?"
(view abstract, view video)
10:00-10:30 coffee break
10:30-11:00 Juris Zarins and Steven Brandt
(cancelled): "The Eastern Desert of Egypt" (view abstract)
11:00-11:30 Stuart Smith
(in absentia): "Crossing Boundaries" (view abstract, view video)
11:30-12:30 questions and discussion

Wednesday 23 June 2004, afternoon session (for workshop participants only)
13:30-14:30 continued discussion in which the written contributions will be included
14:30-15:30 debate on the format and contents of the volume
15:30-16:00 tea break
16:00-17:00 suggestions for future research

17:00-19:00 Reception with the Director's Circle (on invitation by the Cotsen Institute only)

Thursday 24 June 2004, morning session (for workshop participants only)
08:00-10:30 video meeting with connections to:
 - Cambridge University, UK (Dr. David Sneath, Dr. Pamela Rose)
 - University of Bergen, Norway (Dr. Anwar Osman, Dr. Richard Pierce, Jonatan Krzywinski)

Thursday 24 June 2004, afternoon session (for workshop participants only)
12:00-15:00 social event

Hans Barnard (Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles):
Eastern Desert Ware. Microtraces of a lost people (view video):
Excavations at Berenike, a Graeco-Roman harbor on the Egyptian Red Sea coast, have yielded small quantities of characteristic potsherds from 4th-6th century AD deposits. The vessels were mostly cups and bowls made, without the use of a potters wheel, of a sandy fabric with no or very few organic inclusions. Their surfaces have been wiped, smoothed or burnished and most vessels have been decorated with impressed or incised patterns, often asymmetric and frequently enhanced with a white inlay or a partial red slip. Parallels for this pottery have been described at Wadi Qitna, Tabot and various other sites in Nubia and the Eastern Desert. The current hypothesis is that it was a utilitarian ware produced and used by the nomads living in the Eastern Desert at the time. In order to learn more about these 'Eastern Desert Dwellers' their pottery, which has only been found in graves and in places where outsiders provided the infrastructure for them to settle, is studied with a variety of techniques including petrologic thin-sectioning, trace-element finger-printing (with ICP-MS) and fatty acid residue analysis (with GC-MS). A confrontation of the results from this analysis with the textual sources and both ethno-archaeological and experimental information will provide an insight into the lifestyle of the ancient dwellers of the Eastern Desert (back to top).

Alison Betts (Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney, Australia):
Things to do with sheep and goats. Neolithic hunter-forager-herders in North Arabia (view video):
This paper will examine the apparent spread of hunter-forager-pastoralist groups across the Syro-Arabian steppe in the Late Neolithic period. The evidence suggests a fairly rapid change in land-use patterns from the preceding Aceramic Neolithic period. It also indicates wide-spread cultural uniformity  across the steppe and yet considerable diversity of site types within the broader picture. It is possible that this diversity represents varied early responses to the social and economic changes brought about by new and unfamiliar blends of subsistence strategies. The paper will review the wide range of evidence for the period and present some interpretative models (back to top).

Stanley Burstein (Department of History, California State University Los Angeles):
Trogodytes = Blemmyes = Beja? The limits of ancient ethnography
(view video):
The correlation of textual and archaeological evidence is one of the chronic problems of the historiography of the margins of the ancient world. The eastern deserts of Egypt and lower Nubia in late antiquity are no exception. Archaeological remains in the eastern desert are typically associated with the Blemmyes, who are considered typical desert nomads. This paper argues that the sources offer little support for this reconstruction, since they indicate that in late antiquity the Blemmyes were primarily a sedentary population located in the Nile valley (back to top).

Roger Cribb (Independent Scholar, Australia):
Mobility, conflict and the negotiation of space
(view video):
I will address the issue of conflict and conflict resolution in
mobile communities focusing on Near Eastern mountain nomads and the Australian Aboriginal people, emphasizing the spatial dimension, illustrated through archaeology and ethnoarchaeology. In particular I'm interested in the effects of restricted movement on people living in tribal societies, where interpersonal or intergroup conflict has traditionally been handled by moving away from it. Forced sedentarization is the obvious example among Near Eastern nomads and the changes are reflected in the floor plans and distribution of their dwellings. In Australia, where Aboriginal people were gathered into artificial 'communities', there seems to be a complete disjunction between the tribal and kinship considerations, avoidance rules that dominate people's lives and the physical space in which they are forced to live (
back to top).

Jelmer Eerkens (University of California, Davis):
On the relationship between pottery production and mobility.
Lessons from the Western Great Basin of North America
(view video):
Cross-cultural research has demonstrated a relationship between residential mobility and pottery-making: mobile societies usually do not make pots while sedentary ones usually do. There are good theoretical reasons to assume this relationship, however, there are also many exceptions. This study uses the Western Great Basin of North America as a case study to draw more general conclusions about the relationship between pot use and residential mobility. The hunter-gatherers of this region practiced an array of mobility strategies from semi-sedentism to nomadism, yet many made and used pots. The study considers the following questions: Other than mobility, what factors affected pot use in this region? How did more mobile groups incorporate pot production into their seasonal rounds? What were pots used for in this region and why did people make pots at all? (back to top)

Brooke Milne (Department of Anthropology, The University of Western Ontario, Canada):
Colonization, structured landscapes and seasonal mobility.
An examination of early Palaeo-eskimo land use patterns in the Eastern Canadian Arctic
(view video):
The early Palaeo-eskimos were a pioneering culture that populated the pristine environment of the Eastern Canadian Arctic roughly 4500 years ago. Archaeologists have long speculated how these nomadic peoples made this journey from Alaska eastward, given the small size of the population and the geographic expanse of this region. How did they survive in unfamiliar surroundings and how did they maintain contact with one another? Current explanations of Palaeo-eskimo land use patterns are closely tied to the seasonal availability of subsistence resources. In winter, people hunted seals on the sea ice while in spring and summer they ventured inland to hunt caribou. In other words, people followed the animals and eventually colonized the region. A corollary of this model is an image of Palaeo-eskimos living a tenuous existence that hinged almost entirely on the availability of food resources. This paper proposes an alternative view that argues the procurement of lithic raw material was an equally important if not more influential factor contributing to the colonization of the Arctic environment. The Palaeo-eskimos were a stone-tool using culture; thus, procurement of lithic raw material was of central importance to the organization of their technological system. Toolstone is restricted throughout the Arctic, being only available in certain places at certain times of the year. Initially, every group of Palaeo-eskimos would have had to find suitable source areas and logically, other distant groups would come to those same locations to procure toolstone. This, in turn, would provide a place where people could meet and socialize while satisfying their technological needs. Evidence from sites located on southern Baffin Island indicates Palaeo-eskimos continued to make long distance journeys on a regional level to acquire toolstone despite local abundances. The motivation to maintain these land use strategies appears to have been entirely social. Lithic source areas not only provided a place for people to get stone but they also served as a place to meet and greet (back to top).

Steven Rosen (Ben-Gurion University, Israel):
Desert pastoral nomadism in the longue durée.
A case study from the Negev and the Southern Levantine Deserts
(view video):
Archaeological studies of pastoral nomadic systems over the longue durée, in this particular case derived from the Negev and surrounding areas, reflect a deeper and more complex dynamic of social and ecological adaptation than is usually acknowledged. Although the inherent adaptive resilience of pastoral nomadic societies has long been recognized as one of its primary attributes, this recognition has been limited virtually exclusively to the short-term ethnographic present. This short-term perspective, on which many historical interpretations have been based, has resulted in a static understanding of the actual history of peripheral nomadic societies. The deep time perspective, the longue durée, based on archaeological study, suggests that
some of our basic assumptions concerning these groups are flawed. Re-evaluation of the development of these societies reflects an evolution no less complex than that of their sedentary cousins, places them in a three-dimensional historical context where they are not simply a static given in the landscape, and indeed implies that our very definitions of these societies may be problematic (back to top).

Stuart Tyson Smith (Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara):
Crossing boundaries: nomadic groups and ethnic identities (view video):
Ethnicity has proven elusive in the archaeological record, causing some archaeologists to despair of ever identifying ethnic groups, especially when dealing with nomads, who often leave ephemeral traces in the archaeological record. Symbiotic relations with other groups also often characterize nomadic peoples, especially pastoralists, producing a mixed material assemblage that defies characterization as a distinctive tradition, bounded in space and time. Ethnicity is usually framed in this way, with an expectation of a distinct, bounded people with a shared culture and primordial attachments. Archaeologists have generally assumed along similar lines that ethnicity should appear as a distinctive material assemblage, reflecting ethnicity’s primordial attachments. There is, however, an emerging consensus among anthropologists and sociologists that we should not expect to find absolute and bounded ethnic groups either archaeologically or ethnographically. Instead, ethnic identities are situational and overlapping, constructed and negotiated by individuals in specific social contexts. As a result, we as archaeologists must re-orient our perspective away from the search for neatly bounded groups in favor of an agent centered approach that instead focuses on ethnic dynamics. This paper examines some different ways in which archaeological evidence can be used to examine ethnic dynamics, using as examples two colonial communities on ancient Egypt’s southern frontier, Askut and Tombos in Nubia, and concluding with some thoughts on some of the problems and potential of studying the ethnicity of nomadic groups like the Blemmyes, with a brief consideration of the potential for documenting ethnicity at Berenike (back to top).

Jeffrey Szuchman (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles):
Mobility and sedentarization in Late Bronze Age Syria
(view video):
Pastoral nomadism in north Syria and southeast Anatolia are primarily known from the archives of the 19th century BC Mari palace and the Neo-Assyrian records touching on Aramaean nomadism. Work on these periods has focused on textual rather than archaeological data and has left a chronological gap in our knowledge of nomadism in Upper Mesopotamia during the Late Bronze Age. Yet the political and economic conditions of Late Bronze Age Syria and Turkey suggest that it is precisely during this period that we should expect to see a rise in nomadic activity. Only near the end of the second millennium BC, as the Middle Assyrian kingdom consolidated its control over north Syria, nomadism would have decreased. This paper will re-evaluate previous surveys of Upper Mesopotamia in order to build a picture of the nomadic character of north Syria and southeast Turkey in the late second millennium BC. One aim will be to evaluate the usefulness of archaeological surveys in answering questions about mobilization as a response to political circumstances (back to top).

Willeke Wendrich (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles):
Adaptation or
marginalization. Nomadism in 21st century Egypt (view video):
Egypt today has several nomadic populations, most of which live in desert areas that until recently were of little interest to the settled population. Only in times of particular stress, such as periods of war, did the authorities take an active interest in the population of these remote areas. With the development of tourism the desert regions and the arid coasts of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea are in demand for desert and dive safaris. The development of these regions is mostly in the hands of large companies based in Cairo, Alexandria or abroad. The Ababda nomads, who live in the southern part of the Egyptian Eastern Desert, are aware of the potential threat to their culture and way of life and try to find ways of coping with these. This paper will discuss several strategies of adaptation and place these in a broader theoretical context (back to top).

Juris Zarins (Department of Anthropology, Southwest Missouri State University) and
Steven Brandt (Department of Anthropology, University of Florida):
The Eastern Desert of Egypt. A case study for the spread of Semitic-speaking pastoral peoples (cancelled):
In a previous presentation we argued that a complex, two-pronged development resulted in the creation of pastoral nomads in Arabia. One of these arose which was closely related to the Fertile Crescent. As the result of animal domestication by 6000  BC, groups began to herd ovicaprids in areas adjacent to the Crescent, especially in northern Arabia, southern Levant and the Sinai. The second developmental wave may have originated in the Horn of Africa. The domestication of bovids and specialized sheep led to pastoral groups developing in southwest Arabia, perhaps as early as 6000 BC as well. Recent genetic evidence tends to buttress already known archaeological and rock art data for such assumptions. The concomitant issue of Semitic language origins can also be re-examined in light of recent linguistic-genetic modeling proposed by a number of researchers. An examination of the Eastern Desert of Egypt can perhaps shed light on this problem as well. By the late Old Kingdom, hieroglyphic records suggest that at least two major pastoral, linguistic-ethnic groups developed in the Eastern Desert. The first group, as traditional Semitic speakers, may have originated in the northern areas of Sinai, the southern Levant and Arabian Midian. These groups would include the ‘3M and/or IWN.TYW / ST.TYW / MNTW N SWT. From the Horn of Africa area ranging into the southern Eastern Desert we see the arrival of the ?Cushitic MD3 and BK / BKK / B3KT. For the subsequent Middle Kingdom, a well defined regional characterization develops perhaps enhanced by the cordon sanitaire maintained by the Egyptians along the Wadi Hammamat (back to top).
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