Review of R. Wegener, Sauromatisches und sarmatisches Fundgut nordöstlich und östlich des Kaspischen Meeres: Eine Bestandsaufnahme bisheriger Forschungen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Waffengräber (British Archaeological Reports, International Series 2072), Oxford: Archaeopress 2010.
Review of Wegener's monograph on Sarmatian finds, particularly weapon burials, east of the Caspian Sea.
The idea for this book concerns the Northern Black Sea in antiquity. It is published in memory of Heinz Heinen, who was writing on the Roman Imperial period in the Northern Black Sea region for this volume and planned to call his chapter "The Long Way to Pontic Unity". Later, at any rate, he admitted that the term "unity" did not seem adequate to him: "Pontic Networks", he said, would be "more realistic". The piece was never written - Professor Heinen died in July 2013 - but his deliberation on his chapter's title reflects the ideas that permeate the entire book. The question of identity is one of many addressed in several chapters of this book. Together, the nine chapterd comprising the volume cover a broad variety of topics, but by no means offer ab exhaustive study of the region.
we may assume that during the Sarmatian period the neighboring “centers of civilization” exercised considerable structural influence over the culture of the peoples who inhabited the steppe zone of European and partly of Asiatic Sarmatia (i.e., the territories adjacent to the northern coasts of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea). The mere existence of these centers and the political and economic developments that took place there were one of the factors that, to a great extent, determined the changes observed in the material culture of the peoples who populated the “barbarian” territories.
Detailed presentation of archaeological data on, and discussion of, the typology, construction, practical and ritual use of the shield in Anglo-Saxon England (5th - 7th centuries AD)
Michael Rostovtzeff designed a model of cultural history of the North Pontic region that span from the Archaic period to the early Middle Ages, covered much of the Eurasian territory and tried to integrate the literary, epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological sources available in the early-20th century. In essence, he reduces the cultural development of the 1st millennium BC with an antagonism between a dominant Greek and a recessive Iranian culture, the latter represented by the ‘Scythians’, who were receptive of Hellenizing influences. In contrast, the period of Roman political domination is defined by a ‘Sarmatization’ in ethnic and cultural terms, which Rostovtzeff also calls ‘new Iranization’ and ‘Barbarization’ nearly without distinction. He extends this second phase into Late Antiquity, when ‘waves’ of Iranian migrations are seen as thoroughly impacting Western European civilization. This synthesis commanded so much respect that it continues influencing cultural history in Russian scholarship (and beyond), especially in Classical and Scythian-Sarmatian archaeology. Rostovtzeff's ideas root in concepts prevalent in his days. First, the etiological myth of the Russian Empire had already been well-established by the end of the 19th century, where the steppe corridor of Eurasia was considered a ‘world axis’, regularly inviting mass migration from East to West, substantially affecting the ethnic composition of the European population. At the same time, the steppes of Eastern Europe were seen as a ‘buffer zone’ that slowed down or mitigated the impact from the Far East. Second, the predominant role that Rostovtzeff ascribes to the common people in the context of cultural change ultimately goes back to Marxist theory. Third comes the direct association of certain elements of the archaeological material with specific ethnic groups, whence a change of material culture is regularly explained with the migration of peoples. Since such paradigms tend to be internalized at the early stages of a scholar’s socialization, they are slow to change, even when current international scholarship draws on more nuanced socio-cultural concepts and research methodology, largely incompatible with Rostovtzeff’s premises and conclusions.
Review of a book on a chronology project (C14) involving Anglo-Saxon graves of the 6th - 7th centuries AD in England
This study identifies a previously unknown reservoir effect at the archaeological site of Klin-Yar in the Russian North Caucasus. AMS-dated human bones yielded results that were older than expected when compared with dates of coins found in the same grave contexts. We investigated the reasons for this offset by AMS dating modern plant, fish, and water samples to examine the source of the old carbon. We identified a potential source in geothermally derived riverine and spring water, with an apparent age of several thousand years, and hypothesize that carbon from here is being transferred through the food chain to humans. An extensive analysis of carbon and nitrogen isotopes of human and animal bone showed evidence for a mixed diet that may be masking the amount of freshwater-derived protein being consumed. Due to the highly variable nature of the 14C offset (0 to ~350 yr), no suitable average correction factor is applicable to correct for the human dates at the site. A 14C chronology based on dates obtained from terrestrial ungulate bones, which we subsequently obtained, is instead a more reliable indicator of age.
Discussion of the motives for including objects in early medieval graves in Western and Central Europe, using archaeological evidence, ethnographic and modern analogies, and written sources. It is suggested that in many cases, several motives were at play in the case of any individual grave, with different motives for different artefacts, offered possibly by different mourners.
Proceedings of a conference on Central Asian archaeology in memory of V.M. Masson
The meeting of peoples of the Mediterranean civilizations with steppe pastoralists, known in the Greco-Roman tradition under the name of the Scythians and, later, the Sarmatians, took place long before the rise of Imperial Rome (27 bce–395 ce).