Ceramics at the emergence of the silk road: A case from southeastern Kazakhstan

Mary Fran Heinsch, Pamela B. Vandiver, Kyra Lyublyanovics, Alice M. Choyke, Perry Tourtellotte, Claudia Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Most of what is known about the Iron Age in Southeastern Kazakhstan has been learned from kurgan burials and historical accounts describing the largely nomadic lifestyle of steppe populations from the 8th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. Recent archaeological surveys however, are revealing an unexpectedly large number of settlements at the edges of the steppe, along the northern slopes of the Tien Shan Mountains. One of these sites, Tuzusai, has provided a wealth of ceramic finds that offer insight into local pottery production traditions and their social and material contexts. Our preliminary analysis of both pottery and local clay and temper resources suggests that the community at Tuzusai engaged in feasting activities that incorporated a diverse vocabulary of pot forms. The overwhelming majority of these forms appear to have been locally produced using assembly strategies that responded to shortcomings in available raw materials. Given our current understanding of local production resources and the technical difficulty associated with the production of thin walled forms using these materials, we suggest that these ceramics may be high-status goods valued not solely for their function in feasting activities, but for the labor and skill required to produce them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 6 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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