The Visibility of Nomads and Saisonal Occupation in the Archaeological Record: Multi-disciplinary Approaches to a Methodological Problem


Venue: Halle, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
December 16th, 2004, 19.00–20.30 p.m., Universitätsplatz 12, Robertinum, Hörsaal
December 17th, 2004, 9.00–18.00 p.m., Universitätsring 5 (Ecke Universitätsplatz), Hallischer Saal

Social programme:
All participants of the workshop are welcome at dinner on December 16, 8.30 p.m., at "Zanzibar", Universitätsring 6, and on December 17, 6.30 p.m., at "Enchilada", Universitätsring 6a .

On December 18, 10.00 a.m., a guided tour through "The Forged Sky", an exhibition of the State Museum of Prehistory Halle in cooperation with the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, is organized for all participants of the workshop.
Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, Richard-Wagner-Str. 9-10.



December 16th, 2004
Halle, Universitätsplatz 12, Robertinum, Hörsaal

7.00 p.m.

Prof. Donald Whitcomb, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago:
Archaeological evidence for Sedentarization: Bilad as-Sham in the Early Islamic Period


December 17th, 2004
Halle, Universitätsring 5 (Ecke Universitätsplatz), Hallischer Saal

9.15 a.m. - 12.30 p.m.

A) The visibility of Nomads in the archaeological record

9.15 a.m.

Reception and introduction

9.45 a.m.

Prof. Dr. Claudia Näser, Berlin:
Ethnoarchäologie, Analogiebildung und Nomadismusforschung

10.30 - 11.00 a.m.

Coffee break

11.00 a.m.

Prof. Dr. Jak Yakar, Tel Aviv:
Traits of Nomadic People: Ethnoarchaeological Research in Turkey

11.45 a.m.

Dr. Friederike Jesse, SFB 389 ACACIA, Köln:
Spurlose Wanderschaft? - Zur archäologischen Sichtbarkeit von Pastoralnomaden in der Südlichen Libyschen Wüste, Sudan

12.30 - 2.00 p.m.

Lunch: Restaurant "Barfüß", Barfüßer Straße 13

2.00 - 5.15 p.m.

B) Indicators for ephemeral, seasonal or permanent use of sites and settlements

2.00 p.m.

Dr. Margarete Uerpmann, Tübingen:
Al-Buhais - a Neolithic site of mobile herders in SE-Arabia
Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Uerpmann, Tübingen:
Archaeozoological approaches to nomadism - a methodological review

3.20 - 3.45 p.m.

Coffee break

3.45 p.m.

Dr. Simone Riehl, Tübingen:
Nomadism, pastoralism and transhumance in the archaeobotanical record - Examples and methodological problems

4.30 p.m.

Dr. Thomas Vetter und Dr. Michael Zierdt, Halle:
Potentials of geographical methodology for investigating (mobile and sedentary/antique) ressource management (with examples from Marmarica, Egypt)




Stefan R. Hauser

Until twenty years ago it was generally held that as with written sources nomads produced and left little traces in the archaeological record. The growing awareness of the interdependency of sedentary and nomadic components within the societies of northern Africa, the Near East and Central Asia as well as interest in men´s strategies of adaptation and alteration of ecological and climatic conditions led to increased ethnoarchaeological and archaeological research on nomads and in marginal areas in general. This quest for nomadic pastoralists was facilitated by a more encompassing approach to model (complete) social and environmental, i.e., cultural landscapes and developments in survey methodology. As a result archaeologists no longer consider nomads the "invisible culture". Various papers of the colloquium discuss approaches to the manifestation of nomadic pastoralists in the material culture by means of analogical reasoning, ethnoarchaeology and observation in the field. The identification of nomadic traces is, nevertheless, often hampered by shared material culture with sedentary communities. Also, the more we acknowledge the variety of pastoralist migration patterns and their social organization the more important become the factors of intensity, seasonality and duration of use in identified sites. Archaeology´s approach to reconstruct former behaviour and social organization increasingly involves a variety of natural sciences. Ideally questions as to the use of settlements and their surrounding landscape are developed in integrated research designs. Thus, the colloquium asks for methods to discriminate ephemeral, seasonal or (ir-) regularly visited places to refine our interpretation of the tangible and visible remains of nomadic behaviour and social organization.

Spurlose Wanderschaft? - Zur archäologischen Sichtbarkeit von Pastoralnomaden in der südlichen Libyschen Wüste
Traceless migration? - The archaeological visibility of pastoral nomads in the southern Libyan Desert

Friederike Jesse

Large scale survey and excavations in the southern Libyan Desert carried out since 1980 by multi-disciplinary research projects of the University of Cologne made it possible to register about 2300 sites in an hitherto nearly unknown area. The results allowed for the establishment of a 5000 year long cultural sequence beginning in the 6th millennium BC. Identification of pastoral nomadic activities was possible through the analysis of the excavated sites combined with the results of the large scale surveys. On the site level, structures like fireplaces or watering troughs for animals and of course the archaeological material (pottery, lithics and animal bones) give hints for spatial layout, camp organization and seasonality. On the regional scale, especially the mapping of different pottery design styles provides information about the extension of areas of transhumance. Combined with geoscientific evidence concerning the climatic evolution and the archaeozoological and archaeobotanical data, a rather clear picture of pastoral adaptations in the southern Libyan Desert can be traced. A pastoral way of life started at the end of the 5th millennium BC; cattle herding largely dominated. Increasing aridity then led to a diversification of the herds, small livestock, sheep and goat, were added. During the Handessi Horizon (ca. 2200-1100 BC) a very mobile way of life with large transhumance cycles can be supposed. The pottery indicates not only North-South relations but also contact with the Nubian Nile Valley. Following the symbiosis model, the groups thriving west of the Nile may have been part of the pastoral section of the state of Kerma.

Ethnoarchaeology, analogy and the archaeology of nomadism

Claudia Näser

The contribution investigates the use of ethnoarchaeology, and more specifically its methodological basis, i.e., argumentation by analogy, as one of the foundations of archaeological interpretation. The topic is considered especially relevant for the archaeology of nomadism since as a socioeconomic phenomenon nomadism is not directly 'visible' in the archaeological record. Rather its identification depends on criteria which other disciplines, e.g. social anthropology and geography, have established as universally or regionally valid characteristics of a nomadic lifestyle. Against this background, the aims of archaeological investigation are twofold: first, to classify a society as nomadic, and secondly, to describe it in its various social, economic and cultural specifics. While for the first part of this enterprise abstract definitions are of major importance, the second part more or less explicitly relies on specific ethnoarchaeological parallels. The paper aims at explicating archaeological analogical reasoning within this framework and at presenting it to a multidisciplinary audience whose research into nomadism, in its concrete forms as well as in its theoretical background, forms a basis for archaeological studies in this field. After a short introduction into the spectrum of ethnoarchaeological applications, the paper explores the "mechanisms" of analogies and the crucial questions of their validity and plausibility within the realm of archaeology. It further evaluates different methodological demands on the use of analogies and highlights the epistemological problems connected with them - not surprisingly, without being able to solve them. Rather, their discussion should be understood as a contribution to the ongoing multidisciplinary investigations of the SFB 586. The paper will also consider the problem of universalisms which form the explicit or implicit foundation of archaeological analogies in general. In the context of nomadism, recent rethinking of the origins of African pastoralism as opposed to the 'oriental pattern' (Arioti / Oxby 1997) which had previously been granted universal validity is of special interest. Time permitted, another supposedly universal pattern, the "symbiosis" between nomadic and sedentary societies, shall be explored in a case study relating to the pan-grave people, an early northeast African nomadic society at the fringe of Pharaonic Egypt.

Nomadism, pastoralism and transhumance in the archaeobotanical record - Examples and methodological problems

Simone Riehl

Despite some Near Eastern archaeological sites show rural structures, in contrast to the large city states, archaeobotanical evidence from such sites is rare and sometimes problematic. The small sites are not always unambiguously interpretable in their economic and demographic function, and textual evidence is widely used in the interpretation of the finds. Various models on the relation of people - domestic animals - plant production exist, but the evidence is often weak. This contribution aims to outline the archaeobotanical approach to the questions of nomadism and transhumance. This includes the - direct evidence of transhumant activity from the archaeobotanical assemblage itself - indirect indication of pastoralism in the archaeobotanical record - indirect evidence for nomadism by the investigation of the plant composition before and after a settlement hiatus.

Al-Buhais - ein neolithischer Fundplatz nomadischer Hirten in Arabien

Margarete Uerpmann

Das 1995 entdeckte Gräberfeld des 5. Jt. v. Chr. am Jebel al-Buhais 18 im Emirat Sharjah ist eine Schlüsselfundstelle zum Verständnis der Entstehung des Wanderhirtentums in Arabien. Sowohl aus der Art der Bestattungen und aus manchen Beigaben und zufälligen Grabinhalten ergeben sich Hinweise auf eine mobile Lebensweise wie auch aus den Tierknochenfunden, die in einer benachbarten Hitzestein- und Aschenkonzentration gefunden wurden. Primäre Bestattungen enthalten reichen Körperschmuck marinen Ursprungs. Die Kohlenstoff-Isotopie der Skelettreste weist auf einen hohen Anteil mariner Nahrung hin. Ein hoher Anteil sekundärer Bestattungen weist darauf hin, dass Angehörige der hier bestattenden Gruppe oft aus größerer Entfernung zum Gräberfeld zurückgebracht wurden, um hier endgültig bestattet zu werden. Mit einzelnen Sekundärbestattungen ist geologisches Material aus deren primären Gräbern nach al-Buhais gelangt. Es weist auf das Omanische Hajjar-Gebirge als zeitweiligen Aufenthaltsort der Gruppe hin. Aus den verschiedenen Hinweisen lässt sich ein Wanderungsschema erschließen, das einen Aufenthalt an der Küste (Muschelhaufen-Fundplätze der nördlichen Emirate), in der Vorbergzone (al-Buhais) und in der höheren Bergregion (Hajjar-Gebirge) umfasst. Dieser Nomadismus mit Nutzung wechselnder Ressourcen stützt sich nicht auf einen Austausch mit sesshaften Bevölkerungsteilen.

Archäozoologie und Nomadismus - ein methodischer Überblick

Hans-Peter Uerpmann

Die Schwierigkeit des archäologischen Nachweises von Nomadismus beruht auf der unterschiedlichen Wertigkeit von positiver und negativer Evidenz in Funden und Befunden aus Grabungen. Positive Evidenz weist mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit auf Anwesenheit der fundproduzierenden Menschengruppe hin, negative Evidenz aber nur in sehr eingeschränktem Umfang auf ihre Abwesenheit, weil viele andere Ursachen für das Fehlen von Fundmaterial verantwortlich sein können. Der Beitrag der Archäozoologie beruht auf der Seite der positiven Evidenz vor allem auf der Möglichkeit, Fundmaterial tierischer Herkunft bestimmten Jahreszeiten zuzuordnen. Eine Bestimmung der Jahreszeit des Todes eines für die menschliche Ernährung genutzten Tieres ist oft möglich an inkrementalen Strukturen von Molluskenschalen, manchen Fischknochen und -schuppen sowie an Zähnen von Säugetieren, meist unter Zuhilfenahme mikroskopischer oder isotopenchemischer Untersuchungstechniken. Isotopenverhältnisse in biologischen Strukturen mit bekannter Bildungszeit können auch direkte Hinweise auf Ortsveränderungen liefern (insbesondere Sauerstoff- und Strontiumisotopie). Als Makroreste unter bestimmten Umständen nutzbar sind Funde schädelechter Geweihe, Knochen von Zugvögeln, medulare Einlagerungen in Vogelknochen und Reste von Jungtieren mit bekannter Geburtszeit. In Einzelfällen kann die Altersstruktur von Schlachttierpopulationen auch über negative Evidenz zu Aussagen über zeitweilige Abwesenheit von einem Fundplatz verhalfen.

Beiträge der Physischen Geographie zur Erforschung mobiler und sesshafter, antiker und moderner Ressourcennutzung anhand von Beispielen aus der Marmarica

Thomas Vetter und Michael Zierdt

Der Beitrag setzt sich zum Ziel, das Potential der Geographie zur Bearbeitung bzw. Beantwortung interdisziplinärer Fragestellungen anhand von Beispielen aus der Marmarica darzulegen und zu erläutern. Die übergeordnete Fragestellung gilt der Ausprägung von mobilen und sesshaften Wirtschafts- und Lebensweisen in Abhängigkeit von dem ökologischen Gradienten, der am Nordrand der Untersuchungsregion von der semiariden Küstenzone bis in die südlich gelegene Vollwüste ausgeprägt ist. Die zugrundeliegende These lautet, dass in semiariden und ariden Gebieten dem Wasser eine, wenn nicht gar die dominierende bzw. begrenzende Rolle für Bewirtschaftung und Besiedlung zukommt. Der Mensch nutzt mit spezifischen, angepassten Spektren von Wirtschafts- und Lebensweisen die Ressource, er beeinflusst ihre Dynamik in seinem Sinne und hinterlässt damit Spuren, die sich bei Kenntnis der landschaftsökologischen Zusammenhänge aus geographischer Sicht gut interpretieren lassen. Das Spektrum der Wirtschaftsformen variiert dabei auch mit der Verfügbarkeit der Ressource. Mit verschiedenen Beispielen aus verschiedenen Maßstabsebenen wird aufgezeigt, wie geographische Arbeitsmethoden zur Detektion, Aufnahme und systematischen Erfassung von Phänomenen auf der Erdoberfläche dienen können. Die Interpretation der Ergebnisse erlaubt Rückschlüsse auf die Wirtschafts- und Lebensweise der Bevölkerung in der Vergangenheit und heute. Dem Aktualismusprinzip kommt bei der Übertragung nicht nur von Befunden zur Dynamik der natürlichen Ressourcen der Region sondern auch bei denen zur ihrer Bewirtschaftung eine wichtige Rolle zu. In Komplementarität mit anderen Disziplinen - in diesem Beispiel die Archäologie - können darüberhinaus beachtliche Synergien bei der Klärung unbekannter Sachverhalte und der Erforschung bislang wenig bekannter Regionen gehoben werden.

Archaeological evidence of sedentarization:Bilad al-Sham in the early Islamic period

Donald Whitcomb

Archaeological research at the site of Hadir Qinnasrin in north Syria focuses on the settlement of Hadir outside of the Classical city of Chalcis. As implied in the name, this settlement seems to be the hadir or camp of Ghassanid and early Islamic times. Excavations on the periphery of the settlement produced two residences which seem to be transitional house forms symptomatic of a process of sedentarization. This paper will touch on three types of early Islamic settlement: the phenomenon of the hadir (parembole nomadon) attached to most Syrian cities; the nature of the misr (pl. amsar), the so-called garrisons of the Muslim conquest; and the concept of the dar al-hijra as a religious settlement. Each of these intertwined terms may be considered facet of the same social process or indeed of the Arab population of this critical historical period. This evidence will be presented and examined in light of the archaeological methodologies advanced by Cribb for nomad archaeology and by Helms for Bedouin architecture at al-Risha. This methodology may be examined in light of peripheral settlements in Palestine and the Negev, examples also drawn from the early Islamic period. The purpose will be to offer analyses toward identification of this historical process and the contribution which archaeology may make toward an important aspects of social change in the Middle East.

Traits of Nomadic People: Ethnoarchaeological and Archaeological Research in Turkey

Jak Yakar

Ideal conditions not only for sedentary agrarian but also for nomadic pastoral subsistence strategies existed in Anatolia probably since the early Holocene period. The strong link between rural settlement patterns and subsistence economies in geographically and environmentally diverse regions can still be observed and further investigated. The ethnohistory of Turkmen and Kurdish tribes in eastern Anatolia and neighboring lands suggest that nomadic groups in antiquity too would have often included settled components. These being involved in agriculture would have complemented the pastoral economy of the nomadic or semi-nomadic component of the same tribe. Ethnohistorical records moreover indicate that even tribes that fully retained a nomadic pastoralist structure maintained regularized economic interaction with settled farming communities that they encountered during the seasonal migrations. Not all nomadic incursions were necessarily of hostile nature. In other words, not all of them were primarily aimed at systematically robbing and destroying urban centers or agrarian settlements. The more peaceful invasions would have aimed at securing large tracts of rich grazing land on the fringes of towns and farming villages and establishing a mutually beneficial co-existence with the sedentary population. Villages of semi-sedentary pastoralists or campsites of nomadic or semi-nomadic tribal groups are difficult to locate due to the nature and scarcity of archaeological records. Ethnographic records pertaining to the architectural characteristics of secondary settlements in seasonally visited pastures or villages and campsites of nomads and semi-nomads could illustrate the reasons for the difficulty experienced by archaeologists in locating flat non-permanent settlement sites. In the Bronze and Iron Ages too, seasonal migration paths of transhumant groups and nomads would not have stayed constant, resulting in shifting site locations with hardly any architectural deposition. Environmental changes, political instability or socio-economic reasons would have been among the factors altering migration paths. The expansion of cultivated lands by settled farmers, the emergence of territorial city-states and other political entities, or territorial conflicts with rival tribes would have also resulted in changes in the pattern of movements. Ethnoarchaeology combined with Hittite and other historical records strengthen the view that semi-nomadic tribal groups were present among the Bronze and Iron Age communities that populated the Mediterranean hinterland, the Black Sea and the Eastern Highlands of Anatolia.