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Bronze Age agro-pastoralist populations with economies and materials that are generally consistent with the Andronovo Culture—but with localised variations—are known throughout the mountains bordering the Eastern Eurasian Steppe. Recently, evidence for this tradition has also been found in north-west Xinjiang, China, although many questions remain about the production, use and significance of ceramics here. The authors’ analyses of a sample of pottery from sites across the Bortala Valley permit the reconstruction of the ceramic chaîne opératoire and offer two distinct stories: one of cultural connectivity with regional networks of Eurasian pastoralists, and another about self-expression through small-scale local ceramic production.