Rebecca Beardmore

Understanding Late Bronze and Early Iron Age land use and subsistence strategies in Kazakhstan: an approach using geoarchaeology and phytolith analysis

My research is based on sites in the Semirech’ye region of south-eastern Kazakhstan, and focuses attention on the changes seen in the archaeological record at the turn of the 1st millennium BC. The emergence of the Saka culture at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC has been heralded as the advent of true nomadic pastoralism, dominated by horse-riding mobile herders with a strict social hierarchy. In my research I seek to understand the nature of this transitional period, asking whether the dramatic cultural and social changes seen in the archaeological record really were accompanied by equally dramatic changes in subsistence strategies in the Semirech’ye region, and how this might affect our understanding of ‘nomadic pastoralism’ as a category.

Located in south-eastern Kazakhstan, the often steep environmental zoning of this ‘land of seven rivers’ encompasses high mountain pastures, rich alluvial fans and semi-desert steppe. This varied and complex landscape offers the opportunity to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the interface between these sites and the landscape in which they exist, as well as investigating evidence of how these sites might have related to each other economically when they were in use. I aim to explore the dynamics of change and interaction by adopting a theoretical framework of ‘adaptive cycles’, using two principal methodological approaches: geoarchaeology and phytolith analyses from selected sites. By combining these data with other archaeological information, including excavation data, settlement distribution, and the effects of site formation filters, I hope to explore the links between agricultural and pastoral economies in this period of cultural and social transition.

Funding organisation

  • AHRC


 Educational background

  • MLitt, Middle East and Central Asian Security Studies, University of St. Andrews, 2007
  • BA, Archaeology and Anthropology, Oxford University, 2004

Beardmore, R. (2011) An approach to understanding change in the late Bronze and early Iron Age communities of Kazakhstan through geoarchaeology and phytolith analysis. Conference presentation, 2011 SAA Annual Meeting, Sacramento, CA.

Beardmore, R., R. Cuttler, F. Al-Naimi, E. Ramsey, S. Fitch & H. Kallweit. (2010) The Qatar National Historic Environment Record: a bespoke cultural resource management tool and the wider implications for heritage management within the region. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, Vol. 40, pp. 5–17

Beardmore, R., G.L. Bonora & Zh. Kurmankulov. (2008) Preliminary Report on the 2007-2008 IAEK Campaigns in the Syrdarya Delta. East and West, 58, 1-4, pp. 385–90.

Beardmore, R. (2007) Arkheologiya na sluzhbe natsionalnoy idei: na primere arkheologicheskish nakhodok v Semich’ye (The role of archaeology in the development of the concept of the nation in Kazakhstan: a case study of archaeological material in Semirech’ye). Vestnik Evrasii, No.4 (38), pp. 91–114.

Hopwood, C. E. & R. Beardmore. (2003) Survey and excavation at Eshki-olmes and Kuldzhabacy, Kazakhstan: A bid for UNESCO World Heritage status. Circle of Inner Asian Art Newsletter, Issue 18: December.

  • Phytoliths
  • Section on the Talgar alluvial fan
  • Tuzusai Iron Age settlement. Sampling for phytoliths

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