Beyond being a pastoralist in Central Asia: Revisiting the “nomadic narrative” with new research programs and cutting-edge archaeological methods

Margins or Nodes* project’s concluding conference March 26, 2021.

Taylor Hermes (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany & Vilnius University, Lithuania)
Elina Ananyevskaya (Vilnius University, Lithuania)
Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute (Vilnius University, Lithuania)

Critical reconsiderations have recently emerged to the long-standing view that the vast, ecologically diverse region of ancient Central and Inner Asia was the domain of highly mobile pastoralists, or “nomads”, who subsisted exclusively on domesticated animal products. Repeated findings of a wide range of cereal macrobotanical remains from sites dating from the third millennium BC demonstrate that ancient communities here were entangled in a mosaic of dietary choices beyond herd animals. The increasing application of isotope analysis to human and animal skeletal remains further reinforces that Central Asian landscapes were characterized by diverse investments in plant cultivation, especially of the isotopically distinct C4 millets. Although this research collectively fuels important debate about the lifeways of ancient communities in Central Asia, we continue to lack a precise understanding of the breadth of subsistence engagements within and between diverse ecozones, how antecedent foraging strategies were transformed into a diverse array of foodways using domesticates, and how herding or farming production intensified in tandem with the formation of powerful polities and early states. Taken together, we face immense difficulty and contemplation in labelling the communities driving these processes. This session explores the theoretical and empirical basis of assigning a “subsistence identity” to communities located in Central, Inner Asia, and adjacent regions dating from the Eneolithic to the historical period in light of diverse methods of resolving human subsistence and mobility, in addition to novel analyses of material culture, settlement patterns, and architecture that illuminate the complexities of institutional domains and cultural dynamics. Papers in this online conference will present rigorous data collection and analysis of archaeological materials in order to provide new insights on subsistence, mobility, and everyday life that reshape how we understand community identity and interaction in the archaeology of the Eurasian steppes.

*This project has received funding from European Social Fund  (project No 09.3.3-LMT-K-712-01-0002 ) under grant agreement with the Research Council of Lithuania (LMTLT).

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International conference „Investigating Bones: Diet, Health, Environment in the Baltic Region“

2019 October 4-5, Vilnius university Faculty of History (Universiteto g. 7, Room 321, 3rd floor)


The meeting will focus on an interdisciplinary approach to the bioarchaeology of human and animal remains. The objective is to present up-to-date bioarchaeological research results in a variety of areas: stable isotopes, migrations, paleopathology, epidemiology, forensic archaeology, mummy studies, and more. One of the meeting’s goals is to introduce the osteological material of the Baltic region currently available, thus providing all participants with an opportunity to evaluate these collections’ potential for future research. Therefore, this international meeting will provide colleagues from the Baltic region a unique opportunity to exchange ideas on various topics and to discuss diverse perspectives and possible future collaboration, including building on existing professional relationships. In addition to oral presentations, there will be a traditional “hands-on” session, a visit to the anthropological and zooarchaeological collections stored at Vilnius University, as well as an excursion to crypts. There is a possibility to publish the proceedings of this international meeting in the journal Archaeologia Lituana.

Past events

Photography exhibition. Food globalisation: from past to present. March 27 – April 29, Lithuanian national UNESCO commission gallery. Šv. Jono g. 11, Vilnius


Mokslinis tyrimas finansuojamas Europos socialinio fondo lėšomis pagal priemonės Nr. 09.3.3-LMT-K712 veiklą „Mokslininkų kvalifikacijos tobulinimas vykdant aukšto lygio MTEP projektus. 

Finansuojama Europos socialinio fondo lėšomis


International Seminar on Archaeology of Central Asia, January 13-14, 2019. Vilnius university

Click here for detailed program of the seminar

Workshop “Margins of Nodes? Dietary Adaptation Strategies and the Role of Inner Asian Mountain Communities in Prehistoric Food Globalization”. March 26, 2018. Vilnius university