It is time for a pop quiz on Kazakhstani history. Going back more than 2000 years ago, the peoples who called what is present-day Kazakhstan home were:
A) Blood-thirsty barbarians.
B) Uncultured nomads who wandered the Steppe.
C) Mainly farmers who also raised cattle and horses in year-round settlements.
D) A and B.
The answer may be closer to the third option (C) than previously believed, according to Claudia Chang, an archeologist at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, who has been conducting digs in Kazakhstan’s Semirechye region, just outside Almaty, for nearly 20 years. Recent findings suggest that the ancient nomadic societies of the Steppe operated in ways that do not bear much resemblance to the brutal and rudimentary picture of life that continues to linger in the popular imagination.
Chang has published her findings, along with works by eight other specialists, in a new monograph on Iron-Age archeology in Kazakhstan. The book, titled “Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan,” was published by Princeton University Press earlier this year, in conjunction with an eponymous museum exhibition.
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Katya Kumkova is a EurasiaNet staff reporter.