ASU will represent Russia in major international archaeological project "AsiaPast"

24 April 2018 Department of Information and Media Communications
Altai State University signed an agreement on participation in a major international archaeological project "AsiaPast" funded by the European Research Council.

The realization of a mega grant under the supervision of member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Anatoly P. Derevyanko and project of the Russian Science Foundation under the supervision of Head of the Department of Archaeology, Ethnography and Museology at Altai State University, Doctor of History, Professor Aleksey A. Tishkin allowed the researchers of the flagship university to enter the international level, having established cooperation with well-known scientists and scientific centers in different regions of the world. This work resulted in an invitation to participate in a new international project.

"AsiaPast" is an abbreviated name of the project, which reflects Asian pastoralism, the primary subject of the study. The program includes biomolecular and zooarchaeological research aimed at reconstructing the economic life of people associated with the cultivation of domestic animals in different historical periods. This includes shepherding and pasturing, which dominated the Bronze Age, and nomadic cattle raising that was typical for the early Iron Age, as well as various forms of integrated farming, etc.

Kiel University (Germany) is the lead implementer of the project, which includes scientists from a number of European research centers, including leading research organizations in Great Britain and France, as well as researchers from Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China and other countries of Central Asia. Russia is represented by the scientists of Altai State University.

According to the scientists, the south of Western Siberia and Altai are connected with the key area for the Eurasian history of the region where the intersection of various traditions and cultures occurred. For example, some types of economy were formed in Mongolia and northern China, others in Central Asia, where the influence of the Middle East, in particular Iran, is clearly visible. The third economic conglomerate extended along the great belt of the steppes, from the Volga region to the Yenisei, and the fourth one belongs to the taiga complex of cultures that appeared under the influence of cattle-breeding traditions that came with people from the south. For example, this is the territory of the Middle Ob and further down to the Taimyr Peninsula, where in due time, traces of cattle breeding tribes were recorded and studied by archaeologists of Altai State University and other research organizations.

"A number of project directions will be implemented in Russia. In particular, isotopic analysis, with which we will reconstruct the paleo-diet and paleo-climatic conditions of a specific social medium and culture as a whole. For example, with the help of the obtained data, it is possible to restore the life history of specific animals, where they were born, what and where they ate, how they were exploited by people and how they were buried or used as food. All samples will be dated using the radiocarbon method or AMS-dating. By the way, we have already carried out some of the research," Alexey Tishkin said.

Another area in the study of paleo-diets is a deep analysis of the deposits that remain on ceramic vessels, with the help of which the scientists determine the products that were part of the people’s diet in the periods studied. This research will provide answers to a number of issues that have not been solved so far: when people first began to eat butter and sour cream, when grain products began to be used for food in Siberia, how the forms of livestock farming developed over the centuries, and much more.

"We have already gathered a lot of animal bone material and are going to conduct a detailed study of them using morphological and high-tech methods within the framework of the project," the scientist of Altai State University specified.

Within the framework of the “AsiaPast” project, a temporary historical period from the Neolithic period to the early Iron Age (from the 6-5 century BC to the 5 century AD) will be explored. The scientists of Altai State University will not only present already acquired material, but will also continue archaeological excavations in the south of Western Siberia, including the Altai Mountains. The main research area will also cover the southern part of the Ob-Irtysh interfluve, East Kazakhstan, the Mongolian Altai and part of Xinjiang.

"In the Altai region under study, there was a powerful ore mining base, on the basis of which a horse breeding and metallurgical cultural community was created during the early Bronze Age. The base monument of that culture was the ancient settlement in the Aleyskaya steppe. There we found a large number of well-preserved bones and archaeological artefacts that testify to the dominance of horse breeding in this territory. Sheep and cattle, respectively, took the second and third places in the economy, while hunting and fishing were the last. We plan to explore these aspects of people’s economic activity in detail within the framework of the project, opening the pages of unknown world history," Alexey Tishkin said.

The “AsiaPast” project will involve almost all archaeologists of Altai state University, as well as scientists from Novosibirsk and St. Petersburg. The articles on the results of work will be published in the high-ranking journals.

It remains to be added that Professor Cheryl Makarewicz from Kiel University, the supervisor of the “AsiaPast” project, is going to visit Altai State University in July.

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