Preface
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Preface The primary purpose of this book is to share the findings of multidisciplinary research into the Middle Holocene (Neolithic and Bronze Age) hunter-gatherers of the Cis-Baikal region in Siberia conducted since the late 1990s by international scholars associated with the Baikal Archaeology Project (BAP). The book provides a detailed account of the region’s Neolithic and Bronze Age prehistory, as well as descriptions of the approaches used to address questions about past hunter-gatherer life ways and boreal forest adaptations. The multidisciplinary character of the BAP was signaled by the first publication produced by this group (Weber, Konopatskii, and Goriunova 1993) and further expanded by a number of subsequent works (e.g., Lam 1994; Weber et al. 1998; Weber, Link, and Katzenberg 2002; Katzenberg and Weber 1999; Link 1999; Weber and McKenzie 2003). This inclusive approach has become the defining characteristic of the broad program of research supported by the Major Collaborative Research Initiative grant awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada first in 2000 and again in 2005, in addition to a number of other research grants secured by several BAP scholars. While the international archaeological community has long recognized the need for multidisciplinary research, implementation of this postulate is often limited by the nature of the archaeological material. This observation is also fully applicable to the archaeological exploration of the hunter-gathering aspect of the human past. Based on comparative ethnographic data, Robert Kelly’s The Foraging Spectrum (1995) and Lewis Binford’s Constructing Frames of Reference (2001) vividly demonstrate that a wide range of variability exists in practically all aspects of hunter-gatherer behavior. This work also shows distinct trends and relationships that link different behavioral components , such as technology, demography, mobility and subsistence, social and political relations, and world views. From an archaeological perspective, two characteristics of hunter-gath- Preface xvi erer life ways—namely, technology and mobility—present challenges for understanding past behavioral variability. While hunter-gatherer technology draws extensively upon perishable organic materials, the archaeological record instead consists mainly of stone, bone, and other hard materials which often do not represent well the original range of behaviors that produced them. Hunter-gatherer mobility also tends to leave an incomplete (and again often unrepresentative) sample, comprising only unusually large sites or ones where discard rates happened to be very high. Many hunter-gatherers spend the largest portion of their time in short-term camps, producing a welter of small sites that are difficult to locate and, when located, are difficult to interpret . Thus, where conditions for preservation are reasonably good, plant and faunal remains expand our understanding of hunter-gatherer activities. Human remains, too, can provide extremely useful insights into biological and behavioral aspects of life history, especially when accompanied by grave goods. Unfortunately, these remains are generally rare, especially in the numbers required to make reliable inferences. However, the scholarly potential of human remains has grown considerably over the last 35 years with the development of an array of new laboratory techniques, such as radiocarbon dating, bone chemistry studies, and ancient DNA analyses. Through its interdisciplinary examination of human remains, which in the Baikal region abound on a truly unprecedented scale compared to other areas, the BAP can provide insights into past hunter-gatherer adaptations that significantly complement those afforded by the conventional approaches based on examination of stone tools and faunal remains from habitation sites. The BAP is predicated not only on the availability of empirical materials supplied by the scores of Middle Holocene cemeteries, but also on the unique and interesting pattern of culture change in the region. Two periods of substantial social complexity and reduced mobility have been documented for the Early (8000–7000/6800 yrs BP) and Late Neolithic (6000/5800–5200 yrs BP) to Bronze Age (5200/5000–4000 yrs BP), and one interval of lower social complexity and increased mobility has been hypothesized for the Middle Neolithic (7000/6800–6000/5800 yrs BP) period separating the other two. The overarching goal of the BAP is to elucidate these particular processes. Between 8,000 and 4,000 yrs BP, the Baikal area was successively inhabited by two major archaeological cultures, the Early Neolithic (Kitoi) and the Late Neolithic to Bronze Age groups (Isakovo, Serovo, and Glazkovo), which appear to differ from each other in such important areas as subsistence, diet, Preface xvii mobility, activity patterns, demographic structure, social and political relations , mortuary protocols, as well as world views. Another distinct characteristic of...


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Subject Headings

  • Human remains (Archaeology) -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Burial -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Baikal, Lake, Region (Russia) -- Antiquities.
  • Neolithic period -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Hunting and gathering societies -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
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