Defending the Taiga – Fortified Stone Age Hunter-Gatherer Settlements in Western Siberia

Research project T2_1

When and why do hunter-gatherers build fortifications? Which social constellations and societal processes can lead to defensive terraforming and enclosed settlements in mobile foraging groups? This project investigates the emergence of fortified sites among Stone Age hunter-gatherers in the Western Siberian taiga in the 7th-6th millennium BC, representing one of the earliest instances of communities enclosing and fortifying their settlements worldwide. The early-enclosed sites coincide with a range of other innovations that bear witness to substantial sociocultural and economic changes, among them the appearance of pottery vessels, the foundation of sacrificial mounds, and a decrease in residential mobility. Based on new joint Russian-German fieldwork on sites, such as Amnya 1 and Kayukovo 2, the ROOTS project investigates which internal social mechanisms, external influences and environmental factors have been at play in these processes. This research has the potential to open up a new facet in hunter-gatherer archaeology and to enhance the understanding of social structures and the rise and effects of intergroup conflict in acephalous, heterarchical societies.

ROOTS of InequalitiesTest trench in an 8000 year-old pit house at the fortified settlement of Amnya 1, summer 2019 (photo: H. Piezonka / ROOTS).

This project creates synergies between the subclusters “ROOTS of Social Inequalities” (on approaches to understanding heterarchic societies and the possible emergence and manifestation of inequalities), “ROOTS of Socio-Environmental Hazards” (on the role of environmental conditions for socio-economic developments, connection with the 8.2 ka event?) and “ROOTS of Conflict” (on questions of conflict and violence in forager societies). Within the framework of the “Reflective Turn Forum”, ethnohistorical sources will be surveyed for information on social mechanisms and their material manifestation in intergroup conflicts.

ROOTS of InequalitiesOnly a few km from Amnya, members of the Kazym Khanty community process fish for storage, summer 2019. Up until today, aquatic resources play a major role in taiga subsistence strategies (photo: H. Piezonka / ROOTS).

Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Dr. habil. Natalya Chairkina, Dr. Ekaterina Dubovtseva),
Ural Federal University (Dr. Lyubov’ Kosinskaya),
ANO “Institut Arkheologii Severa” (Dr. Oleg Kardash),
Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Institute (PD Dr. Sabine Reinhold).

Project by Henny Piezonka


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions