Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Becoming “Equestrian” in the Bronze Age

Speaker: Katherine S. Kanne, PhD
February 28, 2021 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Dr.  Katherine Kanne is our next featured speaker in this season’s online lectures.  She will address us on a Zoom on Sunday, February 28, beginning at 3:30pm CST, although members are invited to join informally before the talk at 3:15pm.

Dr. Kanne poses this question: ‘How have horses changed us?’ The answer may seem obvious. After all, horses have had a singular impact on human societies and in our personal lives. There is an academic and popular consensus that horses had a revolutionary impact on our history. This is generally envisioned as a technological advancement in transportation and warfare, increasing wealth and connectivity, and spurring the development of more hierarchical societies. With ramifications evident today, linkages between horses and elite authority are suggested to have originated in the Eurasian Bronze Age, c.2200-1000 BCE. However, these roots are assumed rather than demonstrated. Between the earliest domestication efforts in the 3rd millennium BCE, and the widespread appearance of mounted warfare in the 1st millennium BCE, we know very little about the ways in which horses actually changed the people and societies that adopted them, or what the nature of the human-horse relationship was at this crucial stage.

In this talk, Dr. Kanne will discuss what we currently know about horse domestication and early human-horse relationships with the advent of new archaeological and ancient DNA research. She will show how archaeologists discern domestication and document early riding and chariotry, leading up to the results of her research of early horse use and riding in the Hungarian Bronze Age.

Combining the study of horse bones, human bones, and bridle bits, in her work, Dr. Kanne has identified multiple lines of evidence that coalesce to demonstrate the importance of horses in Middle Bronze Age Hungary, c.2000 BCE. She discovered the earliest evidence of riding in people, which corresponds with the appearance of fully domesticated horses and new types of bridle bits. This is supported by broad changes in equine demography, with evidence for trade of horses, a steady increase in height, along with wear from bridle bits, and bony pathologies consistent with riding and injury care. 

What is most striking here is that ordinary women and men riding horses to herd and travel built these long-lived communities that were less hierarchical than previously thought. Like metallurgy, horses were not associated with any one group or social class. Nor was their use restricted by sex. This interpretation challenges traditional grand narratives for the European Bronze Age, which see elite male warriors driving chariots, desirous of bronze, instituting new forms of exclusionary governance. With a co-evolutionary partnership revolutionized during the Bronze Age, horses continue to enrich our lives, improve our health, and impact the economy and environment. Learning how this partnership was forged can help us understand why horses have retained our enduring fascination, and how they can continue to impact our future in meaningful ways. 

Kate Kanne is an Instructor and Research Affiliate in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University, where she earned a PhD. Her BA and MS in Anthropology are from Purdue University. Between degrees, she was the Project Coordinator and archaeologist for Purdue Cultural Resource Management, coordinating public sector survey and excavation in forty-two counties in Indiana, while maintaining a dual career in the horse industry. 

Dr. Kanne specializes in human-animal-environment interaction and archaeological theory, with a current focus on early equestrianism in Eurasia from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BCE. Her dissertation research, from which this talk originates, is in press with Current Anthropology, with additional publications forthcoming. She has presented her research at a number of major European and American archaeology and equestrian history conferences and will serve as an assistant editor for the new journal Cheiron: The International Journal of Equine and Equestrian History. Her current project, Becoming Equestrian in Bronze Age Europe: Archaeology of the Equestrian Revolution, tracks the westward spread of domesticated horses and riding, which aims to identify the factors that led to the rise of mounted warfare broadly throughout Eurasia at the turn of the 1st millennium BCE.

Be sure to join us online for her lecture and conversation beginning at 3:15PM CT for members and 3:30PM CT for start of the lecture!

Topic: Dr. Katherine Kanne - Becoming "Equestrian" In The Bronze Age
Time: Feb 28, 2021 03:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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Sunday, February 14, 2021



Mike Ruggeri Reports  

Keeping An Eye On Archaeology News & Events 

The Enigma of the T-Shaped Doors in Southwest

If you have been to Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, you have seen many T-shaped doors at that site. What they represent and why they were designed that way is still a mystery in Ancient Southwest studies today. The foremost expert on this phenomenon is Steve Lekson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado. The T-shaped doors phenomenon stretches from Chaco Canyon to Aztec Ruins and Mesa Verde 160 miles north of Chaco, and all the way south to Chihuahua, Mexico, 700 miles south, and into the high cliffs of the Sierra Madre north of the site of Paquime in Chihuahua.

The first T-shaped doors constructed at Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico were built between 850-1125 CE. The Chacoan complex disintegrated and the next construction of T-shaped doors appeared at Mesa Verde and Aztec Ruins 160 miles to the north, constructed between 1110-1275 CE. The last set of T-shaped doors were constructed 700 miles south at the site of Paquime between 1250-1450 CE, and high up in cliff houses in the Sierra Madre in the same time period.

 Steve Lekson has written about a concept he calls the Chaco Meridian to explain these time periods. The Chacoan complex population emptied out at around 1125 CE. North for 160 miles, there is a florescence of big construction including T-shaped doors at Aztec Ruins and Mesa Verde starting at the time Chaco was depopulated. Construction techniques including the T-shaped doors were similar to Chaco. In 1275, that complex collapsed and 700 miles to the south at the large site of Paquime, T-shaped doors appear again from 1280-1450 CE. And there are more T-shaped doors there – hundreds appear there. Lekson can show with his Chaco Meridian theory that if you walk directly south from Aztec ruins to Paquime, it is a very straight line just as it is from Chaco to Aztec. So large populations from these three areas walked in straight lines between one complex to the other over 150 years. 

The T-shaped doors at Chaco are found only in the Great Houses at Chaco in prominent exterior places looking out over plazas. When new construction took place at Aztec and Mesa Verde, a democratization of the doors took place. They then appear in big houses and smaller houses as well, and some are interior doors rather than all being exterior doors. At Paquime in the last phase, they become universal.

In the cliff sites of the Sierra Madre at the same time, there is room for one T-shaped door in these cliffside spaces. In some, murals of the serpent are painted around the doors. Murals of these serpents have been found at the sites to the north. There are also a few cave drawings in this general area of these T-shaped doors. And at Mesa Verde, mugs have been found with the T-shape carved into the ancient cups. At Paquime, there are T-shaped smaller altars that are portable. 

So What Do They Mean?
Obviously, the doors mean something socially. The early construction was at Great Houses only at Chaco. So they were meant only for the elite. So they are socially important. But then they became democratized at phase 2 and 3. So the elite were not the only ones that could make these doors for their abodes, perhaps indicating a change in political and/or religious structure. But beyond that, we find the serpent murals surrounding these doors in some places, and the T-shaped portable altars and in ceramic mugs. So the meaning behind this shape has to still come into view.

A Maya Origin?
And finally, the newest research being done in this shape comes into view far to the southwest at the Maya site of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico by archaeologist Mark Callis. There are several T-shaped windows found there dating to 600 CE that certainly look like the same T-shape from the southwest. Callis believes this is related to the God of wind, spirit and water,  reminiscent of the plumed serpent. Wind and water would be important at the Ancient Southwest sites as well. 

So here is a new piece of the puzzle that I do not have space to discuss now. I have created a photo album for you so you can see all that I have talked about here <>.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Indigenous Illinois in Early America

January 31 Virtual Meeting Sets Attendance Record

~ report by Anne Wilson-Dooley ~

For 130 attendees, Dr. Robert M. Morrissey, associate professor of history at U of I Champaign-Urbana, wove together a revamped view of the history of our central states proto- and early historic period gleaned from French historical writings and archeological and ecological studies. It involved large settled populations, trading, warfare, taking of captives, slavery, fire and new foreign colonial actors.

The largest population center in colonial America from 1660-1700 was the Midwest and central Illinois River basin. In 1673, Marquette first visited The Grand Village of the Kaskaskia located on the north bank of the Illinois River across from our Starved Rock State Park. Morrissey estimates there may have been upwards of 18-25,000 indigenous peoples in the vicinity, primarily of the Algonquian language family. The largest portion were the Illinois. Continuing arrivals were not merely refugees but traveling to a power center. The Illinois and other groups were already agricultural but it was vast bison herds that made the large settlements possible.
Prairie grasses store vast amounts of energy but it is inaccessible to human consumption. The bison converted the grasses into edible-by-humans biomass. To harvest this biomass the Illinois and others came to understand the use of fire to maintain low grasses on the prairies as more accessible to the bison than the tall grasses.
The Illinois became a prosperous people with much agency in multiple cultural interactions throughout the Midwest within and between the indigenous populations and the French, then later English. Their bison hunting culture was a communal, cooperative and well-organized enterprise, unlike deer hunting which was more solitary. They also raided for slaves. Warriors lost were replaced with captives, and some slaves were sold. In the villages, the French encountered large numbers of women, men frequently having multiple wives, for processing bison meat and hides for family food and trade.
The French wrote of vast numbers of bison hides as a commodity taken to Louisiana for trade. Hides were also decorated and, likely, imbued with further cultural significance.
The Illinois were not victims and exploited; they were opportunistic and power seekers. They were border peoples between ecological and cultural zones. I commend Morrissey’s published writings to you and am looking forward to the publication of his current manuscript.