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Abstract

This dissertation investigates how human-animal relationships in pastoralism shaped the organization of political life in ancient pastoralist societies. This project uses zooarchaeological and isotopic analysis to outline the organization and political implications of pastoralist practices of production, circulation, and consumption in the mid-2nd millennium BCE in the South Caucasus through the material traces they left in archaeological faunal remains. This project approaches the question of the relationship between politics and pastoralism, not as a contradiction needing to be resolved, but as a project of understanding the affordances that pastoralist activities provide for the creation and maintenance of forms of political authority and subjectivity. In doing so, the dissertation project considers how the specific ethological and material characteristics of domesticated herd animals and their relationships with humans gives them the ability to shape the form and content of political organization in pastoralist societies. It combines a theoretical approach to human-animal relationships based on scholarship from in animal studies and insights on the relationships between the material world, value, and politics from the anthropological and archaeological literature on materiality and value.keep this language? Close attention is paid to how the particular ‘material’ characteristics of domesticated herd animals shaped pastoralist activities, and the suitability of such activities to participate in the creation and maintenance of particular forms of value. These characteristics are the basis of the specific affordances of human-herd animal relationships, which shape the creation and stabilization of political subjectivity and authority. In order to build a synthetic account of the relationship between pastoralism and political organization in the mid-2nd millennium BCE in the South Caucasus, I analyze pastoralism as a set of practices that can be broken down into three aspects: 1) space, 2) seasonality, 3) distribution and consumption. This approach expands on recent work rethinking the relationship between pastoralism and the political by focusing on aspects of pastoralism beyond geographic mobility. Analysis of strontium and oxygen isotopes contributes fine-grained data about the movement of individual animals across the landscape, in contrast to zooarchaeological data (which is based on aggregations of individuals). In order to integrate these different types of data, I re-work osteobiography (drawing on its use in bioarchaeology). This facilitates the interpretation of data that represents simultaneously a unique individual (the individual life history) and a member of certain populations (both biologically and socially). The investigation of the organization of pastoralist production, distribution, and consumption through isotopic and zooarchaeological analysis reveals the complex organization of pastoralist labor based in species, age, and site location in the mid-2nd millennium BCE Tsaghkahovit Plain. While herd mobility was spatially limited within the plain itself, the analysis reveals that production was oriented both around the year-round provisioning of dairy, as well as prime-weight meat production. The analysis also reveals that much consumption of domesticated herd animals took place off site, through practices that circulated partial skeletal remains post-mortem. Late Bronze Age pastoralist practices, grounded in human-animal relationships, worked to produce both social cohesion and differentiation across a number of registers. The complex organization of pastoralist production, circulation, and consumption entailed a number of competing and conflicting objectives, practices, and orientations. These disjunctures required negotiation and intervention, around which power and authority were both in play and at stake. While the specific content of and engagement around these points of friction remains opaque, the archaeological evidence presented here suggests that Late Bronze Age political authorities were able to command and re-distribute certain resources, through practices and activities of consumption linked to fortress sites. However, these results also suggest that this organization was countered by other networks and activities that circulated both people and animals in other, potentially less regulated and centralized, ways.

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