Households without Houses: Mobility and Moorings on the Eurasian Steppe

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Mobility is often cited as the essence of life in the Eurasian steppe, and with it mobile dwellings and households. Steppe nomads offer ethnographically potent visions of inhabited space into which archaeological landscapes fit comfortably. Challenges include the discovery of early household sites, the characterization of households that lack structures, and how to examine the dynamics of mobile pastoralist households without being drawn into an agglomerative model that builds toward optimal practices. This paper will marshal the archaeological evidence for domestic spaces in mobile steppe households. A flexible and extensible model of household spaces will be offered that links activities and resources into a network of contextual relationships at the household scale. This provides a model for analogical use of ethnographic data, frameworks into which the archaeological fragments of mobile households can be fitted, and above all a means of comparative characterization between periods of inhabitation in the world’s steppes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-157
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2016


  • campsites
  • corrals
  • ethnoarchaeology
  • Khitan
  • mobility
  • Mongolia
  • nomads
  • pastoralists
  • small-scale social networks


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