Nomadic Cultures in the Mega-Structure of the Eurasian World

Nomadic Cultures in the Mega-Structure of the Eurasian World


Evgenij N. Chernykh
Translated by Irina Savinetskaya and Peter N. Hommel

In partnership with LRC Publishing House
ISBN: 9781618115522 (hardcover)
Pages: 696 pp. ; 470 color illus.
Publication Date: January 2017

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Two major dividing lines have formed the megastructure of Eurasia, determining the historical epochs of the continent’s peoples. The first, vertical (longitudinal) line has separated East and West since the Paleolithic Age. The East was dominated by Mongol peoples speaking Sino -Tibetan, Manchu-Tungus, and Altaic languages. The Caucasoid peoples of the West spoke mostly Indo-European, Semite, and Finno-Ugric languages. The second line divided the continent horizontally (by latitude) into North and South. This division was closely connected with the Eurasian Steppe Belt. To the north of it lay the world of hunter-gatherers and fishermen. To the south, settled agriculture was dominant. The Steppe Belt itself was the domain of pastoralists, the nomadic and semi-nomadic herders. These lines converged at the entrance to the Great Silk Road. With the swift development of horse domestication and horseback riding, the nomads moved—from the Early Metal Age (500–400 BCE) to Genghis Khan's and the Genghisid’s Great Empire (1200–1400 CE)—to the forefront of Eurasian history as their world became increasingly involved in dramatic and sometimes tragic relationships with their southern neighbors. This book focuses on the tangle of problems in these nomadic peoples’ history. 

Evgenij N. Chernykh is a Russian archaeologist. A Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, he is the Head of the Laboratory of the Scientific Methods of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Professor Chernykh is the author of more than 400 scholarly publications primarily focusing on the scientific methodology in archaeological studies; the development of metallurgy in the ancient cultures of Eurasia; the economic structure of ancient Eurasian world.


Chernykh’s work has a number of qualities that make it a valuable addition to the histories of Eurasia. … Every chapter is more extensively illustrated than any other history of Eurasia with color photographs, drawings, maps and charts that make the complex information in that chapter extremely clear. … In short, for anyone, student or scholar, with an interest in the history of Eurasia and its place in world history this is a valuable work that can be highly recommended.
— Ayse Dietrich, International Journal of Russian Studies
This impressive volume aims to connect the past and present of nomadic Eurasia. The author, a renowned expert in paleometalurgy and radiocarbon dating, expands his scope to Eurasian nomadic lifestyles and to their role in human history. ... Written from the perspective of an experienced and distinguished Russian scholar, it is highly inspirational and well-equipped with photos, maps, and graphs in full color. ... I recommend this volume to anyone interested in an evidence-oriented study of Eurasian nomadism, in its comparative potential, and in the perspectives of further research.
— Jiří Svoboda, Masaryk University, Slavic Review 76, no. 4


Table of Contents

A Tragic Century . . .
“Every Earth Zone . . .”
Earth . . . the Progenitor of all Things

Part I. The Steppe Belt in the Mega-Structure of the Eurasian World

Chapter 1. The Formation of the Eurasian World
Structure and Mega-Structure in Eurasian Geoecology
Culture and Subsistence Strategy
The Long Road to a Continental Mega-Structure
Four Continental “Enclaves”

Chapter 2. Transitions from North to South: Geoecology, Subsistence and the Eurasian Steppe Belt
North–South, East–West
The Geoecological “Cake” of Eurasia
Differences between the Domains
The Geoecology of the Eurasian Steppe Belt
The West-Eurasian Steppe and Its Borders
The Dzungarian Gate and Mongolian Mountain Steppe
Arabian Desert Plateaus
The Domain of Nomadic Culture

Chapter 3. Transitions from East to West: Across the Layers of the Eurasian Geoecology
The East in Eurocentric Perspective
Dividing Lines and Defining Borders: The Mountains between East and West
The Line between Asia and Europe
West and East Beyond the Geoecological Framework
Ideological Systems

Part II. The Archaeology of Nomadic Cultures
Chapter 4. Archaeology and History: Sources of Difference
Archaeology and History: Pre-Literate and Literate
Understanding Differences in Method and Approach
Interpreting Archaeological Sources
The Complexity of Burial Structures
Archaeologists as the Denizens of the Afterworld
The “Mongolian Syndrome” of Nomadic Cultures

Chapter 5. “Gifts” from the Nomads: Pastoral Contributions to World History
Self-Perception and the Perception of Others
Perception of the Steppe Nomads
Horse Riding
Mounds and Mausoleums
The “Bridge” between East and West
The Tides of Cultural Influence
Chapter 6. Nomadic Cultures in the Early Metal Age: Archaeological Time, Technology, and Territory
The Duration of Archaeological Time
Riders and Metal
Metal and the “Ages” of Prehistory
At the Origins of Metallurgy
Other Innovations of the Early Metal Age
Accepted Norms and Acceptable Industries
Early Metal Age as a Eurasian Phenomenon
Territorial “Leaps” of Early Metal Age Cultures
The Problem of Spatial Stagnation

Chapter 7. The “Proto-Metal” Age in Eurasia
The Roots of the Early Metal Age
Eastern Anatolia: Çayönü Tepesi,[D2]  Tell Halula, Nevali Çori and Göbekli Tepe, Körtik Tepe
Central Anatolia: Asikli-Höyük, Çatal-Höyük
The Levant: Jericho and Tell Aswad
The End of the “Proto-Metal” Age

Chapter 8. Metallurgical Revolution in the Carpatho-Balkan Region
Beginning of the Metal Age: Chalcolithic/Eneolithic
The Balkan Neolithic
The Structure of the Carpatho-Balkan Metallurgical Province
The Central Block
The Varna Necropolis
Ai Bunar Copper Mine
The Second Block: The Tripolye Community
The Third Block: Herders in the Steppe
Cultural Continuity in the Steppe|
Driving Change

Chapter 9. The Origins of the Circumpontic Metallurgical Province
The Emergence of a New Province and the Start of the Early Bronze Age
The Mounds of the “Maykop”
“Maykop” Settlements and Economy
The Mysteries of the “Maykop”

Chapter 10. The Circumpontic Metallurgical Province and Caucasian “Corridor”
The Turn of the Middle Bronze Age in the Southern Domain
The “Occupation” of the Carpatho-Balkan Zone
Arslantepe: The “Hall of Weapons” and the “Royal Tomb”
The Metal in Arslantepe and Its Parallels
Traces of the South in the “Maykop” North
From the Proto-Circumpontic to the Circumpontic Metallurgical Province
The Drift of Gold around the Black Sea
Northern Axes in the South

Chapter 11. The Circumpontic Province and the Nomads of the Steppe Belt
The Middle Bronze Age in the Northern Domain
Three Groups of North-Caucasian Cultures
An Impulse to the North: The Steppe Kurgan Cultures
The “Yamna” Archaeological Community
The “Pioneers” of Mining-Metallurgical Industries in the Steppe
The First Wave of Nomadic Migration from West to East
The Catacomb Archaeological Community
The Radiocarbon Chronology of Steppe Cultures
Montelius’s Morphological Paradigm and the Steppe Communities

Chapter 12. Great Leap and Great Stagnation
The Late Bronze Age
A Genie, Bursting out of the Furnace
Defining the Great Stagnation
The Cultural Core of Eurasia

Chapter 13. The Second Millennium: Revolutionary Changes in the Eurasian Steppe
From the Ruins of the Circumpontic Province
The West-Asian (Eurasian) Metallurgical Province: Change in the Character of Cultures
The “Democratic” Character of the Steppe Cultures
The Dawn of the West-Asian Province
The West-Asian Province: The Period of Stabilization
The Kargaly Mining-Metallurgical Center Phenomenon
The Disintegration of the West-Asian Province
The Second and Third Waves from the West to the East
The Peculiarities of the West-Asian Province and a Number of Unanswerable Questions

Chapter 14. The Neighbours of the West-Asian Metallurgical Province
The Formation of New Systems
The European Metallurgical Province
The Caucasian Metallurgical Province
The West-Asian, European and Caucasian Provinces: The Differences in Focus
The Iranian-Anatolian Metallurgical Province
The Hyksos–Manetho–Josephus Flavius

Chapter 15. From the Center of Asia to the West: The Forerunners of Genghis Khan?
The Seima-Turbino Transcultural Phenomenon
Cemeteries or Memorial Sanctuaries?
The Metal of “Seima-Turbino”
Chemical-Metallurgical Groups
Animal Images on the “Seima-Turbino” Metalwork
A Caravan of Animals: The “Hallmarks” of Strangers from the East
The Cultures of Central Asia and the “Mongolian Syndrome”
Foreign Warriors
The End of the Seima-Turbino Phenomenon

Chapter 16. East Asian Steppe and Ancient Chinese Metallurgical Provinces
In Search of “Seima-Turbino” Heritage
The Karasuk Culture and the East Asian Steppe Metallurgical Province
The Ancient Chinese (Shang-Zhou) Metallurgical Province

Chapter 17. At the Roots of the Age of Iron
The Fifth Age of Metal
The Spatial and Chronological Framework of the Iron Age
The Periodization of Technological and Social Development: The Problem of Coordination

Chapter 18. The Scythian World through the Eyes of Herodotus
The Scythians: Who Are They?
The Origins of the Scythians According to Herodotus
On the Funerals of Kings
The Scythians and the Hellenes: Inter-Perceptions

Chapter 19. The Scythian World through the Eyes of Archaeologists
The Scythians: Who Are They (Archaeologically)?
Two Thousand Years On: The Heirs of the “Maykop” Culture
The Greatness of Scythian Burial Mounds
The Royal Kurgans and Their Geography
Scythian Metals and Their Sources
Scythian Gold
The Rejection of the Old World
The Irrational Aspect of Culture
The Sarmatians Replace the Scythians

Part III. Nomadic Culture in Historical Context

Chapter 20. The Transformation of the Pastoralists of Arabia
On the Sources of Revelation
The Battle of Badr and the Beginning of the Muslim Conquests
First Wave of Conquests
Second Wave of Conquests: Iberian Peninsula
Battle of Talas and Dzungarian Gate

Chapter 21. A Collision of Worlds: Islam and Catholicism
Intellectual Rise in Arab Caliphates
Geographical Lore in Europe
Europe Aims at Palestine
The People’s Crusade
The Capture of Jerusalem
The Further Adventures of the Cross

Chapter 22. The First Wave from the East: the Huns
Collapse of the Pillars of Stability
The Huns in the West
Attila the Hun
After Attila
Chapter 23. The “Huns” in the East
Where Are Their Roots?
The Xiongnu and the Han: The Reliability of Chinese Texts
A Pendulum of Victory and Defeat|
Weak Han, Strong “Huns”
A Telling Exchange between Chanyu and Emperor
Enticing the Xiongnu: The Advice of Jia Yi
The Importance of Military Organization: The Advice of Chao Cuo
Strong Han, Weak “Huns”
The Tombs of the Eastern “Huns”

Chapter 24. A Second Wave from the East: The Turks
Chaos in Peoples, Chaos in Chronicles
The Successors of the Xiongnu: Rouran and Xianbei
Turkic Khanates
Rhythms of Victory and Defeat
The Turkic World
In Search of Correspondence between Written and Archaeological Records

Chapter 25. The Heirs of the Western Turkic Khanate
Who are the Bulgars?
Khazars and Their Khanate
The Oghuz
Catholic Crusaders and the Cumans, a Turkic nomadic people

Chapter 26. The Third Wave from the East: China and the Mongols
The “Secret History” of the Mongols
Mengda Beilu
Dynastic Histories and Chronicles
Childhood and Adolescence of Temujin
The First Steps of Genghis Khan
The Year of the Tiger
The Conquest of Tangut: The Western Xia Dynasty and the Death of Genghis Khan
The Defeat of the Jurchen Jin
The Demise of the Song Dynasty
The Mongols in Tibet
Centaurs with Ballistae
The Great Wall of China

Chapter 27. Third Wave from the East: The Mongols and the World of Islam
Beginning: The First Mongol Campaign to the West
The Fall of Khwarezm
From Samarkand to Kalka and Back to Mongolia
From Hatred to Flattery

Chapter 28. A Third Wave from the East: The Mongols and the Christian World
Unexpected Strangers
The Second Expedition to the West: A Decision to Conquer the World
Endangered Rus’
The Catholic World Alerted
Attempts to Organize Collective Resistance
Catholics Take a More Rationalized Approach
William of Rubruck and Marco Polo

Chapter 29. The Fall of the Great Mongol Empire
The Apogee of an Empire
Microscopic Polygon
Three Generations of Conquerors
Defeats without Battles
Antaeus and Odysseus
The Softening of Brutal Souls

Chapter 30. An Eastern Millennium
Three Eastern Waves: Similarities and Differences
Written Sources and Their Advantages and Disadvantages
Historical Realities and the “Mongolian Syndrome”
Great Silk Way and Archeology
The Fate of Mongolian Cities

Part IV. Rus’, Russia, and the Nomadic World

Chapter 31. Why Only Rus’?
History and Archaeology Revisited
The Historians of the Kievan Rus’
“Bad Environment, Bad Neighbours”

Chapter 32. From the Avars to the Time of Troubles
Avars, Khazars, and Pechenegs
The Cumans
The Mongols: The Kalka River
Four Years and Four Waves of Batu Khan’s Conquests
The Mongol Yoke and the Russian Princes
The Kulikovo Battle
The Weakening of the Horde
From the Great Standoff on the Ugra River to Ivan the Terrible
From Ivan the Terrible to the Time of Troubles

Chapter 33. The Early Modern Period: Rupturing of the Borders of the Eurasian Nucleus
Climatic Centuries in the Transition to the Early Modern Period
A Rupture in the West
The Iberian Wave and the Dream of the Indies
Amerigo Vespucci and America
The Gold of South America
The British Wave and the Global Dream
Captain Hudson and New Amsterdam
Thirteen British Colonies and the Origins of the Independence of America
The British Empire

Chapter 34. Sarmatia Asiatica and Sarmatia Europeana
Evaluation of the Events of Two Centuries Ago
The “Barrier” of Kazan
From the Urals to Cape Dezhnyov
Encounters on the Amur: The Manchus
Peaceful Assimilation?
Furs Instead of Gold
The Steppe Belt and China
The Colonization of Northern Eurasia and the Blockade of the Steppe Belt

Chapter 35. Breaking Borders: Colonization in Principle and Practice
The Burden of “Civilization”
New Worlds, New Opportunities
Sources of Pleasure
The Modes of Russian Colonization
Crossing Continents: Russian America
The Fate of the Colonized

Chapter 36. An Assault on the Steppe
The Crimean Thorn: The “Fortress” of the Southwestern Steppe
The Prince of Tauris
An Ural Foothold
Kirilov’s Window
Rychkov: Ethnographer, Historian, and Accountant
Into the Kazakh Steppes
The Last Days of the Kazakh Khanate
At the Gates of Bukhara
“Zheltorossii”: The Manchurian Project
The End of the Insuperable Steppe World?

Chapter 37. The Soviet Steppe
A Short Road to the Soviet Empire
“Unbreakable Union of Freeborn Republics . . .”
The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government
Successes and Achievements
Setbacks and Failures
“Bulwark of Peoples in Brotherhood Strong . . .”
Central Asia: A Century Later
Impressions of Mongolia: 60 Years Later
The Field and the Harvest of Sorrow

Part V. In Place of an Epilogue: Difficult Questions and Complex Problems

Chapter 38. Reflections on Life among Complex Problems
Thirty Five Years on
On the Periodization of the Early Metal Age
Radiocarbon-Based Chronology and the Paradigm of the Contemporary Archaeology
Models of Development: Transformation
Blows to Montelius’s Ideas
Models of Development: Leaps, Surges, and Explosions
In Search of the Origins of Technological Innovations and the Issue of Migration

Chapter 39. Ideology and Culture
The Normative Factor
The Normative Factor and the Religious Principles of the East and the West
The Normative Factor and Funerary Rites

Chapter 40. Self-Sufficency and Historical Development
Metallurgy as a Marker of Transformation
Eurasia and Africa: The Fate of the Ancestral Homeland of Humankind
The Colonization and Re-Colonization of Australia

Appendix 1. Radiocarbon Chronology of the Early Metal Cultures in Western Eurasia
Appendix 2. In Thirst of Immortality: Genghis Khan and the Mission of Changchun the Monk
Genghis Khan and His Longing for Immortality
Chang Chun writes to Genghis Khan
To the West
Passing across the Tian Shan Mountains
In the Other, More Common World
Across Tian Shan to the Sayram Lake 800 Years Later
Appendix 3. Marriott Hotel and Batu Khan
Appendix 4. The Last Descendant of Genghis Khan?
Appendix 5. The Great Silk Road and the Secret Mission of Chokan Valikhanov

Historical Sources