Radiocarbon dating and cultural dynamics across Mongolia’s early pastoral transition

William Taylor* (Corresponding Author), Shevan Wilkin, Joshua Wright, Michael Dee, Myagmar Erdene , Julia Clark, Tumurbaatar Tuvshinjargal, Jamsranjav Bayarsaikhan, William Fitzhugh, Nicole Boivin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
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The emergence of mobile herding lifeways in Mongolia and eastern Eurasia was one of the most crucial economic and cultural transitions in human prehistory. Understanding the process by which this played out, however, has been impeded by the absence of a precise chronological framework for the prehistoric era in Mongolia. One rare source of empirically dateable material useful for understanding eastern Eurasia’s pastoral tradition comes from the stone burial mounds and monumental constructions that began to appear across the landscape of Mongolia and adjacent regions during the Bronze Age (ca. 3000–700 BCE). Here, along with presenting 28 new radiocarbon dates from Mongolia’s earliest pastoral monumental burials, we synthesise, critically analyse, and model existing dates to present the first precision Bayesian radiocarbon model for the emergence and geographic spread of Bronze Age monument and burial forms. Model results demonstrate a cultural succession between ambiguously dated Afanasievo, Chemurchek, and Munkhkhairkhan traditions. Geographic patterning reveals the existence of important cultural frontiers during the second millennium BCE. This work demonstrates the utility of a Bayesian approach for investigating prehistoric cultural dynamics during the emergence of pastoral economies.

Bibliographical note

All necessary permits were obtained for the described study, which complied with all relevant regulations. Collaboration contract between the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human HIstory and the National University of Mongolia began on the 10th November, 2016. Export number 10/413 (7b/52) was received on the 2nd Feb, 2017 (#A0109258, MN DE 7 643). This research was supported by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Special thanks to Dr. Katerina Douka and the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Laboratory for conducting 14C analysis, and to all of the original excavators and authors who published the radiocarbon dates cited in this study.


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