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Niche Dwelling vs. Niche Construction: Landscape Modification in the Bronze and Iron Ages of Central Asia

Abstract

Like all humans, mobile pastoralists alter their ecological niche to their advantage; however, archaeological discussions of mobile pastoralists in Central Asia often focus on environmental factors as a sole driving force in decision making. In reality, anthropogenic modification of the landscape are evident as far back at the Bronze Age. Herders altered the overall ecology of the region by converting forest into pasturelands and indirectly enhanced focal points on the landscape through herding processes. These ecological nodes are locations with higher nutrient-rich biomass, their productivity is further enhanced through grazing. Hence, the overall process of herding in Central Asia has constructed a niche over the long-term that is better suited for this economic pursuit.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I use the term Central Asia to include the ex-Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan; Central Eurasia is a broader geographic term including Central Asia and its neighboring mountainous and steppe regions, such as western China.

  2. 2.

    This is loosely similar to what Wallace n1987:8–9) refers to as a ‘niche space.’

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Acknowledgments

Archaeobotanical research was funded by National Science Foundation (2010–2011), Grant Number 1010678 PI-Michael Frachetti, Co-PI Robert Spengler, and by support from Washington University in St. Louis. I would also like to thank Gayle Fritz and Michael Frachetti for their mentorship and advice.

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Spengler, R.N. Niche Dwelling vs. Niche Construction: Landscape Modification in the Bronze and Iron Ages of Central Asia. Hum Ecol 42, 813–821 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-014-9697-x

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Keywords

  • Niche construction
  • Pastoralism
  • Central Asia
  • Bronze Age
  • Landscape modification