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Human-Environment Interactions: The Role of Foragers in the Development of Mobile Pastoralism in Mongolia's Desert-Steppe.

Farquhar, Jennifer (2022) Human-Environment Interactions: The Role of Foragers in the Development of Mobile Pastoralism in Mongolia's Desert-Steppe. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation investigates the local settlement history of Mongolia’s desert-steppe, affording an opportunity to examine adaptive strategies of mobile people over time (Neolithic-Kitan periods, ca. 8000-800 BP). The study examines land use patterns, mobility strategies, technological organization, and environmental context prior to, during, and after the transition to herding (ca. 4500 BP) to understand the nature of this economic and social change. The study compares how hunters and herders distributed themselves within habitats, detecting differences in how, when, and why people moved, illuminating how people make decisions about existing environmental conditions.

Work was carried out at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve in southeastern Mongolia and involved a program of systematic survey and artifact analysis. Working within a framework of evolutionary ecology and habitat suitability, this study documents subtle yet important shifts in land use and mobility across the Neolithic-Bronze Age transition (ca. 4500 BP) as people presumably began to take up herding.

Settlement and population patterns indicate an abrupt change in habitat choice across this transition, suggesting that preferences of committed herding societies (i.e., Iron Age and beyond) were firmly established during the Bronze Age as people began to prioritize upland grasslands and productive wintertime vegetation. This shift coincided with the regional onset of dry, cool conditions, a reversal of wetter and cool environments where prior foragers exploited a broad range of habitats, including surrounding low-lying wetlands.

Both Neolithic hunters and Bronze Age herders employed short-term, high residential mobility to target resources, demonstrating that foraging lifeways were amenable to early mobile pastoralists. By the Bronze Age, mobility was more constrained with increased recurrent site use and population consolidation in upland settings. Findings support recent geoarchaeological research that suggests intensified human-environment interactions within the uplands during this period resulted in the enhancement of grassland habitats. Population consolidation may have also increased levels of unpredictability as people vied for scarce resources and contended with increasing rates of interaction and resource depletion, setting the stage for the development of adaptations that came to define mobile pastoralism across Eurasia including high residential mobility, long distance connections, social differentiation, and broadly adopted mortuary traditions.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Farquhar, Jenniferjmf179@pitt.eduJMF179
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDrennan,
Committee CoChairBarton,
Committee MemberArkush,
Committee MemberEbert,
Committee MemberWright,
Date: 30 September 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 16 March 2022
Approval Date: 30 September 2022
Submission Date: 10 July 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 325
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Foragers, mobile pastoralism, Mongolia, Neolithic, Bronze Age, mobility
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2022 17:22
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2022 17:22


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