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The seasonal cycle of grassland use in the Caspian Sea steppe during the Bronze Age: A new approach to an old problem

  • Natalia I. Shishlina (a1)

Abstract

This article is devoted to the understanding of the importance of seasonal use of grasslands in the occupation of the Eurasian steppe during the Bronze Age. The pilot section of the research is Kalmykia – a steppe situated between the lower Volga and the Don rivers. We have to look at specific strategies of using local environments, river valleys, upland plateaux, and open steppe lands. During the third millennium BC, pastoralists of the Yamnaya and Catacomb cultures began to exploit the Eurasian steppe grasslands and they had to take advantage of the seasonal variation in steppe vegetation to create a sustainable economy. Seasonal use of grasslands became the main feature of the definition of pastoralism. This is the first time that early steppe materials have been analysed for seasonal data. On the basis of a combination of the seasonal data, settlement data and recent chronological information, a preliminary reconstruction is presented of two contrasting periods of land use for the third millennium BC.

Cet article essaie de mieux faire comprendre l'importance de l'usage saisonnier des prairies pour l'occupation de la steppe eurasienne pendant l'âge du bronze. Des recherches pilotes se concentrent sur la steppe de Kalmykia, située entre la Basse Volga et les rivières du Don. Nous devons considérer différentes stratégies quant à l'usage des milieux locaux, des vallées fluviales, des plateaux et des steppes. Au cours du 3e millénaire av.JC, les bergers des cultures de Yamnaya respectivement de la culture des Catacombes commençaient à exploiter les prairies de la steppe eurasienne et ils devaient profiter des changements saisonniers afin de développer une économie durable. L'usage saisonnier des prairies devenait le caractéristique principal de la définition d'une culture pastorale. C'est la première fois que du matériel ancien provenant des steppes est analysé afin de donner des informations relatives aux saisons. En se basant sur une combination de ces données et sur des informations récentes sur les habitations ainsi que sur la chronologie, on peut montrer de façon préliminaire deux périodes très différentes par rapport à l'usage des terres au cours du 3e millénaire av JC.

Zusammenfassung

Der vorliegende Beitrag widmet sich dem Verständnis der Bedeutung saisonaler Nutzung des Graslandes der eurasischen Steppe während der Bronzezeit. Der Schwerpunkt dieser Untersuchung ist Kalmykien, ein Steppengebiet zwischen unterer Wolga und Don. Dabei werden spezielle Strategien der Nutzung der lokalen Umwelt, der Flußtäler, Hochlandplateaus und offenen Steppe betrachtet. Während des 3. vorchristlichen Jahrtausends begannen Viehzüchter der Grubengrab - und der Katakombengrabkultur, das Weideland der eurasischen Steppe auszubeuten, wobei sie die jahreszeitlichen Veränderungen der Vegetation ausnutzen mußten, um eine wirkungsvolle Ökonomie aufzubauen. Diese saisonale Nutzung des Graslandes wurde zum Hauptmerkmal bei der Definition von Viehzucht. Zum ersten Mal ist nun frühes Fundmaterial aus der eurasischen Steppe nach jahreszeitlichen Gesichtspunkten untersucht worden. Auf der Basis einer Kombination von saisonalen Informationen, Aussagen zu Siedlungen und neuesten chronologischen Daten wird eine vorläufige Rekonstruktion zweier gegensätzlicher Perioden der Landnutzung für das 3. vorchristliche Jahrtausend vorgestellt.

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The seasonal cycle of grassland use in the Caspian Sea steppe during the Bronze Age: A new approach to an old problem

  • Natalia I. Shishlina (a1)

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