Local Landscapes of Pastoral Nomads in Southeastern Turkey

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Local Landscapes of Pastoral Nomads in Southeastern Turkey

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Title: Local Landscapes of Pastoral Nomads in Southeastern Turkey
Author: Hammer, Emily
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Abstract: The important historical role of pastoral nomads in Mesopotamia stands in stark contrast to the dearth of archaeological data on pastoral nomadic groups of any pre-modern period. Archaeological models neglect not just a significant segment of past populations; they also lack data on a substantial portion of the past food and textile production systems. Historical records and excavation have demonstrated that the resilience of Mesopotamian economy depended in part on pastoralism, but archaeologists know very little about the long-term management of the pastoral landscapes beyond core agricultural areas. This study examines empirical evidence for pastoral nomadic modes of inhabiting and transforming the landscape over the last 500 years in the upland fringes of the Upper Tigris River Valley in southeastern Turkey. Four seasons of archaeological survey mapped diachronic patterns in pastoral nomadic winter land-use, including patterns of campsites and spatially associated landscape features such as cisterns, corrals, caves, cairns, and check dams. Ethnographic and historical data as well as satellite imagery aided in archaeological interpretation. Three main conclusions about pastoral nomads are drawn from the characteristics and spatial distributions of the surveyed features. 1) Pastoral nomads altered their local landscapes for the purposes of sheltering humans and animals, collecting water, and improving pastures. Areas surrounding campsites contained abundant evidence of landscape management and capital investments in the herding potential of the area. 2) These investments were fixed, re-usable, and encouraged seasonal re-inhabitation of certain areas. Over time, these features became “landscape anchors”—geographic foci that structured the spatial organization of local landscapes. 3) The topographical position of domestic and herding features would have resulted in vertical daily movement patterns for humans and animals. These results force a reassessment of widely-held assumptions about the invisibility of campsites and the role of pastoral nomads in the transformation of Near Eastern landscapes. Although limited in time and space, this study presents grounds for optimism for a robust landscape archaeology of pastoral nomads. Intensive surveys, targeted excavations, and radiometric dating programs have enormous potential to provide more complex diachronic understandings of pastoral nomadic land-use strategies, sustainability, quotidian movement, and senses of place.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:9909629

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