Archaeologists from the University of Sydney recreated the seasonal migration routes of Bronze Age herders in Xinjiang, northwest China.
Published in a high ranking magazine PLOS ONETheir research is the result of innovative methodology. To identify snow cover and vegetation cycles, important factors for the survival of the Bronze Age people and their herds, they examined both satellite imagery and archaeological evidence. , as well as interviewing present-day herders.
Combined with researchers from the Archeology Institute, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, they then used these data to create a model of how landscapes were used more ago. 3,500 years.
“This detailed model of how Bronze Age people utilize resources in their environment greatly helps in understanding the prehistoric Silk Road,”; said Dr. Peter Jia, lead author. said.
“For example, our ethnographic studies – interviews with local herders – have explained why certain locations have been and remain selected throughout the seasons: because presence of early and late grass, optimal grazing potential in summer and no snow cover in winter.
“Analysis of the satellite imagery, along with the results of archeological surveys and excavations, has allowed us to examine these anecdotes and prove their accuracy.”
Study co-author Professor Alison Betts added: “From previous archaeological evidence, it is difficult to determine how Bronze Age herdsmen adapted to life in Xinjiang and used the scene. they settled there.
“We now have a new, validated method for determining the season in which people stay in one place.”
Danger in the steppe: why seasonal migration is important
The Eurasian steppe / mountain zone is a harsh environment. The main adaptation to this arid landscape occurred during the Bronze Age with the introduction of domesticated animals. But to this day, it is still a place with potential dangers to people’s livelihoods. Too much snow in winter and the animals can’t find enough food, dying hundreds of what locals call the ‘white disaster’. Too little snow and not enough water for humans and animals, dreadful ‘black catastrophe’. Landscape management through seasonal migration is key to the survival and maintenance of a livestock-based economic system.
The strength of the research lies in the interdisciplinary approach, combining advanced satellite technology with ethnographic fieldwork and archeology.
Establishing vegetation growth cycles on grazing lands and estimating snow depth using satellite imagery allowed researchers to assess the suitability of different parts of the mountain to herding cattle in different seasons. Comparing these data with the accounts of local Mongol and Kazakh herders, they closely match.
“Archeology is one of the few fields that provides insights into how humans interacted with the environment in the past,” said co-author Dr Gino Caspari.
“With environmental conditions increasingly exacerbated around the world, it is important to analyze this history.
“This mission requires us to link disciplines and collaborate internationally. Our research is a prime example of this.”
Satellite data shows looting
PLOS ONE (Year 2020). Journals.plos.org/plosone/arti… journal.pone.0240739
Provided by University of Sydney
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