Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationWyoming, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9542
Approve DateOctober 11, 2017
Project TitleJohnson, Dr. James A., U. of Wyoming, Laramie, WY - To aid the 'Uy River Valley Communities of Practice Project'
Materiality in pastoral societies is often studied through the construction of different kinds of ritual monuments. This has led to a dearth of anthropological studies focused on the importance of pastoral everyday life and its material culture, and the potential of everyday factors like pottery making to form material- and historically-rich traditions that endure through time and space. However, due to their mobile nature, pastoralists are not often the subject to such considerations. We aim to address this dearth in our understanding of pastoral materiality through considerations of ‘communities of practice’; how different groups participate in shared socio-technological knowledge and practices, and how these practices are passed down over time. Building upon the work already conducted in our research area, we focus our efforts on the pottery that will be recovered from the proposed partial excavation of a pastoral population center in the Uy River valley of the southern Urals region of the present-day Russian Federation, along with pottery collected from other sites in the valley. The Middle through Final Bronze Age periods of the Uy River valley, ca. 2100 – 900 BCE, were times of highly visible social change, with pastoral communities undergoing disintegration and population dispersal at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, some population nucleation in the Late Bronze Age, and continued dispersal in the Final Bronze Age. Such a backdrop of social and demographic change is an exciting opportunity to illuminate the roles quotidian material culture such as pottery has during periods of seemingly dramatic social change and to assess how communities of practice emerged and endured. More broadly, we aim to contribute new insights into the nature of pastoral societies that are often overlooked in anthropological studies.