Review: Rethinking Prehistoric Central Asia

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Rethinking Prehistoric Central Asia: shepherds, farmers, and nomads
Claudia Chang
Routledge, £105
ISBN 978-1138737082
Review by: George Nash

Until relatively recently, evidence for later prehistoric and protohistoric communities of Central Asia has been interpreted as representing a fragmented history, partly as a result of the geopolitics of the region (especially during the 20th century). From the limited archaeological evidence, communities in the 1st millennium BC were thought of as nomadic, tribal, and engaged in conflict, but this new synthesis paints a different picture of the lives and mindsets of this distinct group of people.

The book is based on detailed archaeological fieldwork in southeastern Kazakhstan, and uses various approaches to tease out the evidence, including ceramics and faunal and floral remains. Excavation identified signs of cultivation (barley, millet, and wheat) and animal husbandry (cattle, goat, and sheep). Such economic indicators suggest that these complex hierarchal communities were largely sedentary, living in nucleated settlements, rather than nomadic.

There is also an account of the early protohistory of the region detailing the impact of initial contact with the Han emperors of China and of the Silk Road that was to dominate the economics of the area for the next 1,000 years.

In all, this is an important contribution for those researching later prehistory in this part of the world.

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