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Ethnoarchaeology of pastoralism in arid lands: a particularistic approach

Biagetti, S; (2012) Ethnoarchaeology of pastoralism in arid lands: a particularistic approach. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis is aimed at investigating the issue of visibility of pastoral sites and landscape, and at improving our overall understanding of arid lands pastoralism as an eco-anthropological issue. This research was motivated by the recognition that ethnographic sources are extremely vague and unclear regarding the topic of pastoralists’ adaptation to marginal environments. Ethnographic literature is mostly characterized by the description of static and uniform situations where ‘models’ prevail over the ‘reality’. Unfortunately, archaeological reconstructions of the development of Holocene Saharan culture tend to refer rather uncritically to those models, providing unsatisfactory explanations. I argue that the actuality of pastoral societies is far more intricate than the classificatory systems traditionally adopted to describe it. My investigation therefore has questioned the validity of using normative models, and has used new field data to study the extent (and location) of medium and short term variability in pastoral practices within a single group. The results from the study of the Kel Tadrart have paved the way to a deep reconsideration of human frequentation in the Acacus range in historical times, to date substantially dismissed as insignificant, hence challenging the ‘paradigm’ aridity=abandonment, which is the hallmark of most of the more accredited reconstructions of middle/late Holocene cultural trajectories in the whole Sahara. Further, this thesis has successfully investigated the variability of material outcomes of Kel Tadrart occupations, both at the landscape and at the site level, explaining the nature of the various material traces that Kel Tadrart leave on the landscape, reverting some traditional assumptions (e.g. shift to increasing sedentism balanced with purchase of fodder as a strategy to survive in the mountain instead of leaving it, or the adoption of plant material instead of stone huts as sign of self-identification rather than for mobility purposes). In a more general perspective, the discussion of the resilience and the variability of the Kel Tadrart if the Acacus massif provides an important contribution to the greater debates on populations living in ‘marginal’ areas.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Ethnoarchaeology of pastoralism in arid lands: a particularistic approach
Language: English
Additional information: Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1366632
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