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Title: At Home, with the Good Horses: Relationality, Roles, Identity and Ideology in Iron Age Inner Asia
Authors: Argent, Gala
Supervisors: Pluciennik, Mark
Award date: 1-Jun-2011
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: As an overarching theme, this thesis is concerned with investigating archaeologically the relationships between humans and horses within the Iron Age Inner Asian society of the Pazyryk archaeological culture. Prior archaeologies of horses in Iron Age Eurasia have approached them in a segmented fashion: in either cultural/economic, social/ideological or ritual/cosmological realms. Horses have been objectified as parts of “material culture” or the “environment,” significant only as commodities exploited for culinary or technological purposes, or as symbolic proxies for human attributes and meanings. Within these narratives, I argue, lie faulty anthropocentric meta-theoretical assumptions about both the nature of “culture” and the domination of horses by humans. This thesis, then, challenges traditional archaeological and anthropological understandings of animals as absent referents within human societies, unidirectionally acted upon by humans. I adopt an alternate “human-animal studies” approach, which considers animals as partners in the interspecifically co-created, embodied worlds they share with humans. In doing this, I argue that a consideration of horses, themselves, and how they come together with humans, is a necessary prerequisite to investigating societies within which they were or are embedded. Pulling from ethological and ethnographic materials, including my own position within the sub-culture of “working riders,” I present a model of human-horse interactions— as phenomenologically lived—based upon academic models of human nonverbal and interpersonal communication. From this more holistic perspective, based upon original field work at the Hermitage Museum, I reassess the Pazyryk human-horse burials. I suggest that horses were respected as individual subjects, and that human and horse roles, statuses, identities and ideology were blended, and mutually and contingently constituted as meaningful. I conclude with fresh interpretations that are quite different from previously asserted conceptions of the Pazyryk people as “fierce warriors,” and suggest that an archaeology of relationality which includes animals holds promise for future studies.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: PhD
Rights: Copyright © the author, 2011.
Appears in Collections:Theses, School of Archaeology and Ancient History
Leicester Theses

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