Nomadism or Sedentism on the Frontier of China? New Archaeological Evidence in the Eastern Tianshan Mountains in the First Millennium BC

Wednesday, May 10, 2023 12:00 PM

Duo Tian, PhD

Associate Professor of Archaeology, School of Cultural Heritage

Northwest University, China (西北大学)


The ancient Chinese dynasties’ records highlight the Eurasian Steppe as an active and threatening region inhabited by “nomadic” peoples. However, ancient literature does not provide clear insight into the subsistence of these populations. As a part of the steppe region, the eastern Tianshan Mountain is a crucial junction for cultural communication between the East and West, and historical records show that it was inhabited by various populations in the first millennium BC. In recent decades, Northwest University in China has launched a long-term project to explore the archaeological cultures of the Tianshan Mountains in northwest China. This lecture aims to provide an overview of the recent archaeological work conducted in this region, shedding light on the chronology, populations, and cultures of the eastern Tianshan Mountains. Specifically, the lecture will focus on evidence from archaeobotany, zooarchaeology, and molecular archaeology to examine the subsistence and cultural exchange of this region during the first millennium BC. Additionally, the lecture will explore how ancient peoples adapted their strategies to cope with the fluctuating climate and mosaic landscapes.