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Empire Dynamics and Inner Asia

J. Daniel Rogers
Across the range of early states and empires there are certain commonalities in the sources of
authority, technology, and modes of adaptation. In one sense, empires developed out of states,
but they are not just large states. Interpreting an empire therefore requires at least a consideration
of the state, if not other widely recognized political systems, like chiefdoms. States are essentially
ways of organizing control beyond the level of the local. Under differing circumstances control
may extend across a variety of political, economic, and cultural activities. The early states and
empires of Inner Asia offer important insights for the comparative analysis of how complex so-
cieties were constructed and maintained. Over the course of approximately 2,000 years there
were 15 major polities with the characteristics of empires, ten of these existed during the first
Millennium CE (Rogers 2012; Honeychurch 2015). These polities exhibit several aspects that in
the past have not figured prominently in the development of theories about either the rise or
maintenance of social complexity. The objective of this chapter, then, is to highlight the Inner
Asian empires in the context of broader theories of social complexity by focusing on four themes:
first, how social systems construct order; second, the organization of hierarchies; third, the nature
of the political community; and fourth, the trajectory of traditions and their role in structuring
events. Taken together, these elements represent what is referred to here as a “state landscape”.
The terms state, empire, and complex polity are used throughout this chapter. In one sense it is
important to provide some clarity about these terms, but it is also essential to keep the definitions
broad, to allow for study of differences and similarities, and not allow the definitions to become
the explanations. While many authors agree on some characteristics of the state or empire, the
various definitions include considerable variation
. The idea of defining any entity, such as the
state, presumes that it has characteristics that are relatively uniform and that represent some
sort of agreed-upon set of concepts by those who live within the state. The state, then, is an ide-
ology designed to make practice and institutional structure predictable to those within and out-
side the state. However, in order to capture an understanding of variation the objective should
Bondarenko 2007; Mann 1986, 37; Service 1975; Smith
2003; Wright 1977.
be to consider actual political practice, rather than a standardized perception of such practice
(Abrams 1988). The political systems of a state often incorporate hierarchies of control with
coercive power. Individuals who reside in a state recognize it as politically independent, with
specific leaders and a known territory (Rogers 2007, 250; Trigger 2003, 92). Empires are states
that expand to encompass multiple ethnicities and geographical zones, in the process incorpo-
rating other states and political entities. Through expansion they modify their organization to
encompass diversity, through several different strategies described elsewhere (Rogers 2012, 214).
Throughout the text another term, complex polity, is used in a more generic sense to refer to a
sociopolitical system with some or all of the characteristics of a state or empire.
The principal interpretations of how states first originated represent variations on four general
themes: First, a perceived nearly inevitable progression from simple to complex, as in cultural
evolution; second, opportunity and contingency, as in specific leaders with skill and luck; third,
resource differentials including environmental opportunities that gave one group resources ver-
sus another; and fourth, conflict imperatives that highlight human inclinations to dominate. J.
Haas (1995) identified these categories in a similar way when he highlighted two schools of
thought: one oriented to state emergence as a response to the managerial needs to solve societal
problems; and a second orientation focused on resolution of social conflicts arising from in-
equalities. These two orientations are expressed through warfare, production, and trade and en-
compass the possibilities of initial state formation, but not the formation of empires. On the
steppe, these broad interpretive categories have the same validity as in more sedentary societies.
As N. Kradin (2008, 107) has noted, the general study of state formation tends to derive from,
and focus on, pathways to complexity along the track to agriculture and sedentary life, reflected
in numerous studies of the city and the development of urbanism
. The story of how cities de-
veloped is an interpretive path that has unquestionably produced important insights. Yet, it has
tended to ignore or sideline pastoralist societies, whether in collaboration or opposition to their
more sedentary neighbors. Several studies have highlighted the important characteristics that
steppe pastoralists bring to an understanding of general social complexity
. Included in this re-
analysis of pastoralist polities are new interpretations of the role of urban centers. The charac-
teristics of nomadic polities that offer this alternative pathway to empire center on networks of
interaction beyond the local, the volatile economics and wealth generating potential of herd an-
imals, and the nature of “control hierarchies” that were typically dispersed with minimal bu-
reaucratic structure. Different kinds of hierarchies exist that may either rank or partition sets
of relationships. Control hierarchies are the particular kind normally seen in political systems
in which there is a paramount leader at the top of a ranked administrative structure (Lane 2006).
The dynamic set of relationships that form the state landscape, include the construction of
order, as discussed by Baines and Yoffee (2000, 14–15). Of particular importance are the elements
of power expressed in the emergence and sustainability of political control hierarchies. Collapse
of social systems as a phenomenon of political process is not addressed in this study. Within the
development of complex social systems, there are potentially several alternative managerial
strategies, such as a diverse set of control hierarchies, heterarchies
, constellations of authority
(Smith 2003), corporate, and exclusionary structures (Blanton et al. 1996) each of which is an
aspect of the political community (Campbell 2009; Honeychurch 2012). Within this cluster of
Bairoch 1988; Boyd 1962; Danilov 2004; Nichols/
Charlton 1997; Wheatley 1971.
Barfield 1989; Honeychurch 2012; Kradin 2011; Ro -
gers 2007; 2012.
Bondarenko/Nemirovskiy 2007; Crumley 1995; White
contrasting authority modes are shared foundations and commonalities of process that offer in-
sights into how certain complex polities came into being. Here the highlighted aspects include
the differentials of wealth and inequality formation, structure and trajectory as dual aspects of
process, and the contextual constraints of environment and cultural framing. Together these
form the parameters of a state landscape.
Within a particular context there is a structure to the interaction between cultural traditions
and historical moments. The nature of these structures have been studied in culture contact sit-
uations and in regard to the actions of individuals (agency), but may also be extended to apply
to other contexts of social and/or political change, as is implied in the original formulation by
M. Sahlins (1981). Such a structure has predictability for the participants because of trajectories
reflected in cultural traditions that limit the range of potentials in both individual and collective
action. Other theories of culture change have also captured similar distinctions, such as the
canonical theory proposed by C. Cioffi-Revilla (2005). In the canonical theory, decision making
in response to threats or opportunities is contingent on accrued knowledge, that is, the con-
straints of tradition balanced against the development of institutional capacity. The scale and
longevity of any particular polity is the intersection of opportunity, capacity, and knowledge –
the structure of events.
The opportunities, contingencies, and structures reflected in social theories are conditioned on
the steppe by a specific set of social and economic characteristics related to pastoralism – the
management of herd animals on natural pasture. Pastoralists have generally been studied through
their social organization (Vainshtein 1980), mobility (Simukov 2007), and the dynamic interac-
tions (co-domestication) of herds and people (Fijn 2011). To interpret emerging social complex-
ities on the steppe it is useful to briefly outline some basic social and economic characteristics
that link the societies in Inner Asia with other pastoralist societies in the Middle East and Africa.
Multi-resource pastoralism
The herding of animals was and is the economic foundation; however, it was also routinely sup-
plemented. In addition to the herding of different proportions of sheep, goats, horses, yaks, and
camels; hunting and the gathering of wild plants was routinely practiced. Formal irrigation
agriculture was also practiced to varying degrees. There is substantial archaeological and ethno-
graphic evidence for multi-resource pastoralism (e.g., Davydova 1985; Vainshtein 1980).
Ethnographic studies conducted over the last 100 years in Mongolia provide some useful in-
sights, especially for understanding the organization of the household and larger camp cluster
(Simukov 2007). For example, the Khot ail in Mongolia is generally considered to include be-
tween 2 and 12 households (Bold 1996; Fernández-Giménez 1999). Throughout Inner Asia most
of the ethnographic cases studied by Humphrey and Sneath (1999, 154) included small clusters
of related households similar to the local camps noted in Mongolia. All households go through
a life cycle (Goody 1971), but generally households were relatively small, with a mean of 5.5
people representing a nuclear family. Families tended to raise around four children to adulthood.
A review of ethnographic studies from rural areas of Mongolia, Russia, and Kazakhstan revealed
consistently low human population densities for steppe pastoralists ranging from approximately
0.05 to 1.8 people per square kilometer
Mobility and dispersal
At one extreme, place is conceptually non-existent; at the other it is absolute. Between these ex-
tremes are a range of perceptions and practices that hold key insights with far reaching implications.
It is often taken for granted, for instance, that distance on the steppe causes problems of commu-
nication. That is, logically it is not always predictable to know where a particular family, a camp,
or even an entire community may be from one time to the next. In practice, however, communica-
tion networks among pastoralists are relatively efficient for three reasons: first, members of the
family do not simply stay within sight of the camp, but are out tending herds where they routinely
come in contact with herders from other camps; second, pastoralists participate in a wide variety
of economic and social activities that follow well known seasonal schedules; and third, families are
fairly predictable in terms of seasonal movements and these patterns are well known to others. In
times of conflict, communication networks are even more tightly integrated, not less so.
Extra-local interactions
What is most certainly different about pastoralists, in comparison to sedentary populations, is
the actual distance and the social mechanisms needed to share information, even when move-
ment/communication technology (the horse) is available. On a routine basis there are a variety
of social and political events that tend to occur seasonally or annually. These same kind of gath-
erings occur today and are documented ethnographically (e.g., Vreeland 1957).
Non-fixed property
It may seem an overly obvious statement, but the real key to mobility is the movability of not
only property, but the corollary of accumulated wealth (Borgerhoff Mulder et al. 2010). For
pastoralists, wealth was sometimes marked by the size of herds. The vulnerability of herd-based
wealth is often cited as a fundamental problem for pastoralists engaged in power accumulation
and the creation of formal status distinctions. While herds are vulnerable to droughts and ex-
treme winter weather, there is extensive ethnographic information, paralleled by results from
computer simulations, indicating that wealthy families and their respective lineages tend to main-
Allard 2006; Bazargur et al. 1989; Bruun 2006; Jagchid/
Hyer 1979; Johnson/Earle 1987; Humphrey/Sneath
1999; Krader 1955; Kradin 2005; Simukov 1934; Vain-
shtein 1980; Vreeland 1957; Ykhanbai et al. 2004.
tain their resources over generations in spite of collective challenges, like war or extreme
. There are a variety of social mechanisms that account for this, including: differential
access to water and grazing, social sharing, more extensive social networks allowing greater mo-
bility, and implied decision flexibility (Abramzon 1978).
Pastoralism is a significant economic activity for a wide variety of peoples in different parts
of the world, but like agriculture, pastoralism does not result in a singular type of society (Salz-
man 2004, 137). People with different traditions may keep animal herds, while also engaged in
a variety of other economic activities. The patterns observed in Inner Asia illustrate a reliance
on herding, but are best described as multi-resource pastoralism, as noted above. With the emer-
gence of the first empires the characteristics outlined above are clearly represented in direct eco-
nomic ways, but also in how complex political systems were established and managed.
The dynamics of early empires and the processes of how state landscapes functioned played out
multiple times in the first Millennium CE (Fig. 1). While many of the factors described above
are theorized as applying to all steppe polities, there are also unique combinations revealed in
the articulation of the political community, the structure of events, and specific cultural trajec-
tories. These individual qualities are described below for selected polities in order to develop
an understanding of the range of variation.
Special archaeological attention, in the eastern steppe, has centered on the Xiongnu (Hunnu),
in part because it is the first well known major steppe polity. The extent to which changes in
the Bronze Age contributed to the formation of the Xiongnu and other later polities is currently
under intense archaeological study
. Kradin’s (2011) recent analysis and identification of the
Xiongnu as a super complex chiefdom is particularly relevant to this analysis, as well as a host
of other studies (e.g., Brosseder/Miller 2011). Often, the fundamental disagreements over inter-
pretation of the Xiongnu are centered on the extent and complexity of political control. These
mechanisms are difficult to analyze archaeologically and the historical documents require sig-
nificant interpretation.
Like other histories of the northern peoples written by Chinese historians, the documents
related to the Xiongnu provide an origin narrative centered on the actions of hereditary cen-
tralized leaders (Qian Sima/Watson 1961). Archaeologically, the evidence suggests a far more
diffuse origin over a period of time in which competing, but related, sub-groups utilized patterns
of wealth and inequality already established in the Bronze Age (3000–700 BCE) and early Iron
Age (700–400 BCE; Honeychurch 2015). Clues to this period of consolidation may be reflected
in the documentary sources by several other groups mentioned as either contemporary or an-
tecedent to the Xiongnu (Prušek 1971). The evidence for complex social hierarchies comes from
elaborate elite tombs and from detailed studies of settlement patterns in multiple regions. In
different ways, both Honeychurch (2012) and Kradin (2011) have argued for the dispersed and
Batnasan 1972; Cooper 1993; Fernández-Giménez
1997; Rogers et al. 2012; Simukov 1936; Vainshtein
Fitzhugh 2009; Frohlich et al. 2010; Honeychurch/
Amartuvshin 2007; Houle 2009.
not very centralized character of the Xiongnu political community engaged in the constant rene-
gotiation of control. Early sources, however, report a hierarchy consisting of 24 regional leaders
along with the kings of the left and right, all of whom answered to a central leader. Together,
this system represented a very dispersed political community. While historical sources give the
impression of a well-organized system (Qian Sima/Watson 1961), it is likely that the local leaders
were not on equal footing and undoubtedly exercised varying levels of compliance with man-
dates issued by the left, right, or center.
By its geographical extent and survival over the course of more than 350 years the Xiongnu
polity was arguably the most successful of all the major steppe polities. Archaeological data
points to the strength of shared traditions as one explanation for this success, reflected in the
Fig. 1. A chronology of major polities for Inner Asia (after Rogers 2012, 208).
commonalities of cultural practice represented in the material record. Because the Xiongnu were
the first major steppe polity they may also have held an advantage simply because there were
no powerful steppe rivals. While the structure of events includes a dispersed political community
the particular Xiongnu case is more difficult to analyze since it represents an emergent first ex-
ample. The Xiongnu case does, however, set the stage as a cultural trajectory played out repeat-
edly in subsequent examples.
Contemporary with much of the Xiongnu Empire, but extending later in time were the
Wuhuan and Xianbei polities. They are discussed here together because of their similar origins
in northeast China and their routine conflicts with the Xiongnu. While there are known archae-
ological sites from northeast China, identification of sites in Mongolia or further north has
proven elusive partly because of the relatively short-lived nature of these polities, but also be-
cause they did not expand or develop a distinctive material culture, in contrast to the Xiongnu.
The Xianbei undoubtedly left a material record, however, thus far it has not been possible to
distinguish it from either earlier or later materials. A distinctive material culture in one case and
the absence of such in another is an important clue to the cultural politics of expanding empires.
The documentary sources describe the Wuhuan and Xianbei as lacking a clear centralized
hereditary hierarchy, at least initially. Instead, central control was vested in individuals who
came to the position through merit. Merit alone, however, could not have been the only criterion
(Gardiner/de Crespigny 1977, 15). There are prominent leaders mentioned in the histories after
CE 120 and centralized Xianbei leadership after about CE 140. Merit, as a leadership criterion,
is not an unusual concept on the steppe, considering how many leaders were “elected” by a cen-
tral council or rose to power through conflict. In the Wuhuan case it appears that the political
community remained dispersed and functioned in a relatively collaborative way when called
upon for collective action.
The core political strategies and actions of the Wuhuan provide a new dimension to the tra-
jectory and cultural constraints seen in the Xiongnu polity, although both the Wuhuan and the
Xianbei utilized the three part division of east, west, and center, as seen earlier. The Wuhuan
brought to the heart of Inner Asia the familiar pastoralist strategies, but also added traditions
more clearly associated with intensive agriculture and Chinese styles of cultural practice. In
both the Wuhuan and Xianbei cases the historical sources are essentially reporting protracted
periods of political consolidation that eventually resulted in a clear centralized leadership, if
only briefly (156–180 CE). For instance, even after a major Wuhuan defeat by the Chinese (Wei),
they continue to exist as three separate smaller polities. Xianbei power seems also to have fol-
lowed a similarly long period of decline eventually resulting in the breakup of the polity after a
relatively short period of centralized control (Gardiner/de Crespigny 1977). The system prac-
ticed by the Wuhuan and Xianbei produced a structure that did not fare well in leadership suc-
cessions, and defeat in armed conflict by external enemies was the eventual fate of both of these
The Jujan (Rouran) polity that followed the Wuhuan and Xianbei emerged with a central
leadership that developed a military registration system and rules of behavior, but not extending
to a written civil code of laws. The Jujan drew on what was now a long standing tradition of a
three-part regional organization as first described in the Xiongnu polity. The Jujan continued
to rely heavily on dispersed aristocratic lineages as in the broader political community concept
(Kradin 2000; 2005).
Other polities of the first Millennium CE include the Toba Wei, Türk I, Türk II, Uyghur,
Khitan Liao, and Tangut Xia. Although these offer additional evidence of continuity and change
it is not necessary to describe each case. Instead, to complement the early examples described
above two additional polities are discussed here – Uyghur and Khitan Liao. The Uyghur
represent a distinctive contrast to the innovations and patterns established by the Xiongnu and
then followed by the Wuhuan, Xianbei, and Jujan. Perhaps the most obvious aspect is the Uyghur
emphasis on establishing a capitol city (Khar Balgas or Ordu Balik). The largest ancient city in
Mongolia, Khar Balgas, was a product of empire through which the goals of making a managed
state landscape took shape. Under the influence of Sogdian advisors and the Manichaean religion
the Uyghur Empire reached its greatest power around CE 760 (Mackerras 1972, 8). In an in-
scription from Khar Balgas the words of the qaghan articulate an objective and strong departure
from pastoralist practice: “[We will transform]...this country of barbarous customs, full of the
fumes of blood, into a land where people live on vegetables; from a land of killing to a land
where good deeds are fostered” (Moriyasu/Ochir 1999, 143). Such statements are a reflection
of the newly adopted religious tenants. There are many examples of religious conversion phe-
nomenon around the world. When it begins at the top, as among the Uyghur, it is often a rapid
transition; although it often remains debatable, as in this case, as to just how complete the con-
version was among the populace. Although clearly highly influential, there were also reports
that more than one religion was widely practiced, not to mention the likelihood that even more
traditional shamanism was common (Mackerras 1990).
Cities, commerce, and agriculture were important in the Uyghur Empire, in sharp contrast
to their immediate predecessors, the Türk empires, as well as earlier empires. Added to this was
a strong Uyghur centralized political authority originally represented by a coalition of nine
“tribes”. With the founding of the empire less reliance was placed on the authority of a dispersed
political community, which was not always the case among the other steppe empires. The
Uyghur Empire emphasis on centralized authority and a distinctive urban aspect are a disjuncture
in some critical aspects from the cultural constraints and traditions that featured so prominently
previously, even though the Uyghur court, for instance, did adopt the administrative titles used
by the former Türk empires. Even with these contrasts it is likely that the economic base re-
mained pastoralism (Mackerras 1972, 13; 1990, 323).
The Khitan Liao originating in Manchuria provided an additional compliment and contrast
to the other polities. Beginning in the early 10th century the Khitan successfully forged a coali-
tion between eight related groups (Franke 1990). From a pastoralist base, the emerging Khitan
Empire had initial success against Chinese communities to the south. As the Khitan expanded
into the broader steppe region they brought connections with Chinese-influenced traditions,
including craft production and agriculture. In many cases these specialized skills were practiced
by Chinese subjects, including administrative traditions. Like the Uyghurs, the Khitan brought
new elements to the heart of the steppe. The differences between the two were still significant,
perhaps partly because the Uyghurs represented a “home grown” polity of Turkic origins, while
the Khitan derived from groups at the eastern margin of the steppe, rooted in a mixed economy
of pastoralism and agriculture. Even more than the Uyghurs, the Khitan Empire devised a state
landscape that emphasized boundaries and depended on a variety of constructions, including
urban centers, very long boundary walls, garrison posts, frontier settlements, and ceremonial
centers (Rogers 2012).
The initial confederation of groups and the emerging political hierarchy were combined with
an administrative bureaucracy partially built on Chinese patterns. In some portions of the em-
pire a dual-administration was imposed, in which the pastoralists were under Khitan adminis-
tration, while the agricultural Chinese communities were under local Chinese administration.
The extent to which the administrative style of the Khitan Empire was an advantage or disad-
vantage is a matter of debate. Their empire was expansive and lasted for over 200 years (907–
1125 CE).
The pastoralist empires, and their constructed state landscapes are described above along four
dimensions: construction of order, political community, trajectory, and the particular melding
of pattern and event in the structure of events. The construction of order refers to process while
political community represents a particular set of mechanisms and the social context of state
organizational tools, like control hierarchies. Trajectory refers to dynamic change, especially
regarding tradition and the implications of social and cultural constraints on action. Finally, the
structure of events is the link between constructing order, political community, and trajectory.
Phrased another way, structural conjunctures, contingent decision making, and the constraints
of tradition are realized through core mechanisms like political community (Campbell 2009;
Honeychurch 2012). Political community is conceptualized along two major continuums – hier -
archy and social network and the dynamic of dispersed versus restricted. Figure 2 presents a
heuristic model/tool of how pastoralist and sedentary agricultural polities fall along these two
continuums. The differences seen in Figure 2 between sedentary and pastoralist polities are pri-
marily the result of alternative concepts of movement and mobility, as played out within a par-
ticular type of political community. If this is correct, then the nature of political community on
the steppe represents an important new dimension for interpreting the emergence and sustain-
ability of empires.
In the original formulation of the political community concept Bailey described the personnel
that were part of a political structure, in the context of game theory. The political community
is the largest group “in which competition for valued ends is controlled. Beyond this point the
rules do not apply and politics is not so much a competition as a fight.” (Bailey 1969, 23). Within
the political community the elite were the ones entitled to compete for power. On the steppe,
these were the aristocratic lineages found in every named group. As Bailey (1969) notes, the
elite may contain many internal grades (administrative and aristocratic titles) and boundaries
between the elite and commoners were not always precise, thus setting the stage for challenges
to authority. Within the political community the elite form themselves into collaborative teams
to exploit networks of potential power. Bailey’s formulation is about how political systems op-
erate, distinct from conceptions of the social community as a place of residence and shared af-
filiation. Recently, Honeychurch (2012) expanded the political community concept and brought
it to the study of steppe empires. He added the idea of space and elaborated on the qualities of
a community that identifies a particular membership and boundary, implying the sparse and
expansive qualities of steppe polities.
The complex political landscape common to the steppe was composed of dispersed aristocratic
lineages which variously collaborated or fought to establish position, each structured by dy-
namic cultural trajectories. The early histories provide glimpses into the complexity of these
struggles, but are generally more concerned with those polities that emerged and were capable
of posing a real threat to China. The continually competing lineages understood the rules of the
game as a combination of collaborative compromise and ruthless self-promotion. On the steppe
aristocratic lineages with real authority over populations at various scales are well described in
the early documentary sources, often referred to by their military titles, such as leader of “10,000
horsemen”, as among the Xiongnu (Qian Sima/Watson 1961, 136).
While these lineages, and the many commoner families connected to them, have the outward
characteristics of kin groups, the reality reflected a far more complex political landscape in which
diverse groups might become part of the same “clan” or “tribe”. Regionally and globally, there
are many examples of how kinship was an outward, but fictive, expression of rewritten histories
of affiliation and allegiance
. The complex chiefdoms of 18th Century Hawaii are an example
that illustrates this process well. In Hawaii paramount chiefs waged wars, incorporated territo-
ries and their populations, and in the process reassigned the clan affiliations of those newly an-
nexed (Sahlins 1985). The people in the new region now acknowledged their position within a
conical clan with the new chief at the apex. On the steppe it appears that the dispersed political
community functioned in a similar way (Sneath 2007). The local political hierarchies with their
real or fictive kin affiliations were the focal points of emerging alliances and the efforts of leaders
to garner resources and amass control. These events often took place not as a result of the vi-
sionary objectives of a single leader, but as experiment and responses to opportunities based on
incomplete information (Wright 2006). The social hierarchies mirror fundamental social and
economic principles, since they both create and are created by the necessities and advantages of
the steppe.
The examples of steppe polities discussed above provide ample evidence of the kinds of tra-
ditions that played into the development of polities. There was continuity and variation in the
trajectory of all the polities. For instance, the organization of the political elite within a polity
repeatedly included a tripartite left, right, and center administrative geography, with the para-
mount at the center. While not universal, this organization was routinely part of those polities
that originated in the heart of the eastern steppe, primarily Mongolia. Other systems incorpo-
rated elements of the steppe traditions along with those derived from eastern Chinese popula-
tions and western Sogdian traditions, in the examples described here.
Crossley 1990; Elliot 2001; Gailey 1987; Garthwaite
1983; Hobsbawn/Ranger 1983.
Fig. 2. The relationship between the scale and dispersion of social networks
and control hierarchies in political communities. Sedentary polities contrast
with pastoralist polities along both dimensions.
Political community, tradition, and trajectory are structural aspects that play out as a conjunc-
ture of particular events. Outcomes are never certain, but the cultural context and traditions
generally established the range of possibilities. For the steppe polities, these traditions were es-
tablished, at least in a basic sense, during the earlier Bronze Age. Choices made by leaders, in a
reciprocal sense, create and fulfill expectations. In most cases it is probable that would-be leaders
were unsuccessful in turning the political community to a unified purpose. The range of out-
comes is embodied in the traditions, and occasional innovations, of political centralization seen
in the examples above. Centralization of a control hierarchy was not a foregone conclusion or
an automatic necessity of polity formation. Moreover, centralization turns out to be a poor pre-
dictor of success, measured as either longevity or geographical extent of the polity. Figure 1 il-
lustrates the generally accepted chronology of the major polities. Within this group, the most
politically centralized and hierarchical were arguably the Xiongnu, Uyghurs, and Khitan Liao.
Together, these polities were spatially expansive (Cioffi-Revilla et al. 2010), but varied tremen-
dously in their longevity – a goal of every polity.
The most enduring themes in the study of early complex polities concern how these political
and social systems developed and how they declined. Added relatively recently to this duality
is the analysis of how social complexity was maintained and sustained through particular
mechanisms. Throughout Inner Asia the first Millennium CE was dominated by a series of
complex societies that developed, were sustained, and ultimately declined. The emergence and
sustainability of each society involves particular sets of themes. These are described here as
the construction of order as in the politics and alliance building of early leaders, the overall
scope of the political community, the constraints of cultural trajectories, and the dynamics
played out as the structure of the conjuncture. The patterns revealed in the histories of par-
ticular early empires provide the clues and more solid evidence for how the core factors op-
Foundational to any complex political system are the social mechanisms that create and
maintain inequalities (Flannery/Marcus 2012). Steppe pastoralists, and those elsewhere, have
been viewed as relatively egalitarian in their basic social systems in spite of ethnographic, his-
torical, and archaeological evidence to the contrary. In part, this perception of the “egalitarian
nomad” is based on experiences of the 20th century, in which pastoralists were indeed mar-
ginalized politically and economically. Added to this is the perception that herd-based re-
sources are too volatile to allow sustained wealth accumulation. However, detailed studies of
how pastoralists develop inequalities, confirms that wealth is routinely accumulated and main-
tained over generations (Asad 1979; Borgerhoff Mulder et al. 2010). Archaeological evidence
from the Bronze Age throughout Central and Inner Asia further illustrate the time depth and
expansive nature of institutionalized and centralized status distinctions (Frachetti 2008; Kohl
The steppe environment and the economics of pastoralism are the foundations of all the em-
pires discussed here. Every empire constructs order and utilizes a political community to build
a state landscape. The unique qualities brought to the study of social complexity by the steppe
polities center on the dispersed qualities of the political community, which represent the ways
mobility was used to master environmental constraints through organizational and technological
Qian Sima, Records of the Grand Historian of
China, translated from the Shih chi of Ssu-ma
Ch’ien by B. Watson. Vol. 2: The Age of Emperor
Wu 140 to circa 100 B.C. Records of Civilization
65,2 (New York 1961).
I am indebted to many friends and colleagues for their advice and support in preparation of
this chapter. In particular, I thank Meghan Mulkerin, Margaret Mariani, Marcia Bakry, and
William Honeychurch. Aspects of the research described here were supported by a National
Science Foundation grant (BCS-0527471) within the Human and Social Dynamics initiative.
Additional support was provided by the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian
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Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology
Volume 7
Edited by
Jan Bemmann
Edited by
Jan Bemmann, Michael Schmauder
Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
708 pages, 176 figures, 12 tables
The conference and the publication were generously financed by
Gerda Henkel Stiftung
Landschaftsverband Rheinland mit LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn
The conference was co-organized and the book is co-edited by
Ursula Brosseder, Susanne Reichert, and Timo Stickler
Ein Titelsatz ist bei der Deutschen Bibliothek erhältlich
Desktop Publishing and Design: Matthias Weis
Translations: Authors, Daniel C. Waugh
English language editors: Alicia Ventresca Miller, Susanne Reichert
Image editing: Gisela Höhn, Matthias Weis
Final editing: Ute Arents, Güde Bemmann
Printing and binding:
DDD DigitalDruck Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG – Aalen
Printed in Germany
Cover illustration: Martin Pütz
ISBN 978-3-936490-14-7
Copyright 2015 by uni-bonn
PREFACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Nomadic Empires in Inner Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
China-Steppe Relations in Historical Perspective. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Empire Dynamics and Inner Asia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
MASON Hierarchies: A Long-range Agent Model of Power, Conflict, and
Environment in Inner Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Environmental Aspects of Chinese Antiquity: Problems of
Interpretation and Chronological Correlation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
The Southern Xiongnu in Northern China: Navigating and Negotiating
the Middle Ground . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
A Study on the Complexity and Dynamics of Interaction and Exchange in
Late Iron Age Eurasia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
Arsacid Iran and the Nomads of Central Asia – Ways of Cultural Transfer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 333
The Model of the Political Transformation of the Da Liao as an Alternative
to the Evolution of the Structures of Authority in the Early Medieval Pastoral Empires
of Mongolia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 391
Strategies of Cohesion and Control in the Türk and Uyghur Empires. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 437
Away from the Ötüken: A Geopolitical Approach to the seventh Century
Eastern Türks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 453
Luxurious Necessities: Some Observations on Foreign Commodities and Nomadic
Polities in Central Asia in the sixth to ninth Centuries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 463
The Turkic World in Mamûd al-Kâshgharî . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503
On the Road again – Diplomacy and Trade from a Chinese Perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 557
The Qarakhanids’ Eastern Exchange: Preliminary Notes on the Silk Roads
in the eleventh and twelfth Centuries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 575
Forces and Resources. Remarks on the Failing Regional State of
Sulānšāh b. Il Arslan wārazmšāh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 597
Old-Turkish Roots of Chinggis Khan’s “Golden Clan”. Continuity of
Genesis. Typology of Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 623
Dealing with Non-State Societies: The failed Assassination Attempt against
Attila (449 CE) and Eastern Roman Hunnic Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 635
The Gupta Empire in the Face of the Hunnic Threat. Parallels to the
Late Roman Empire? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 659
Huns, Avars, Hungarians – Reflections on the Interaction between Steppe Empires
in Southeast Europe and the Late Roman to Early Byzantine Empires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 671
Huns, Avars, Hungarians – Comparative Perspectives based on Written Evidence . . . . . . . . . 693
INDEX OF AUTHORS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 703
This volume combines contributions to a conference of the same title which was held February
9 to 11, 2012, in Bonn. Idea and format of the meeting had been developed through a process
of intensive discussions among the editors in close cooperation with Dieter Quast, RGZM
Mainz. Our original intention was to organize a conference with a focus on archaeology, bearing
in mind questions concerning mobility and communication or – stated differently – exchange
patterns in Eurasia. After having recognized that research in Eurasia is still dominated by site
centric approaches which makes vast overviews as we imagined them somewhat cumbersome
we deviated from our first outline.
As a consequence, we broadened the field for two further aspects which had been nearly neg-
lected thus far. First, there are West–East ranging communications in the Eurasian steppe zone
which lie beyond the overarching term “Silk Roads”. As written sources rarely throw light on
interactions among steppe polities, these interactions are markedly less frequently subject to
scientific discussions. This question is best approached via archaeological analyses with a wide
focus in geographical terms. North–South contacts are by far more commonly discussed than
West–East communications, as they encompass interactions between states with foremost seden-
tary population and nomads who live north of these territories. As a rule, it is the sedentary
viewpoint which is being told, as these cultures opposed to the nomads left numerous written
. At the same time we wanted to encourage comparative perspectives. Characteristics
often assumed to be typical of the relations between sedentary people and nomads are also true
in comparable measures of those between Rome/Byzantium and their “barbaric” neighbors.
What they all have in common is at least a distinct mobility in space, even though to varying
forms and degrees. Furthermore, questions and themes long discussed in European archaeology
and history entered the research of Inner Asia and Central Asia only recently, as, for example,
identity, the emergence of new ethnic groups, frontiers, frontier societies, contact zones, elites,
economies of prestige goods. We therefore wanted to invite colleagues of different disciplines
and regions to join in a scientific dispute. Lively discussions during the conference and positive
feedback by attendees show that this idea was appreciated.
The second aspect to be included can be summarized under the term “complexity”, which in
this context should not be understood as a concept from the social sciences but metaphorically.
Over long periods of time simple explanations of cultural phenomena were favored, be it state-
ments on pure and poor nomads, the dependency theory or the bad habit of explaining every
cultural change with large-scale migrations. “Complexity” is meant as a signal and reminder
that the simplest explanations are not always the best, which is reflected by the contributions in
this volume.
Numerous projects within the framework of the Col-
laborative Research Center (Sonderforschungsbereich)
586 “Difference and Integration” at the University
Leipzig and the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wit-
tenberg dealt intensively with interactions between
nomads and settled people, a good overview of publi-
cations thus far is given by the center’s website
We consciously limited the temporal scope of the papers to the time after the Scyths and be-
fore the Mongols, somewhat clumsily described as the “first millennium CE”, because these
two eras have been traditionally paid enormous attention to and are represented in a correspon-
ding flood of publications
. At the same time interactions in the steppe zone witnessed only
during the centuries around the turn of the era a hitherto unknown rise in intensity and dy-
Not all of the works presented at the conference are included in this volume as they were al-
ready noted for publications elsewhere. This applies to the presentations given by Enno Giele,
Valentina Mordvintseva, and Matthias Pfisterer. However, other colleagues who could not attend
the conference were invited to hand in manuscripts. All contributions were revised and partly
expanded, which to our delight resulted in this comprehensive volume. We would have loved
to have included a paper on the consequences of climate change and meteorological events on
the polities of the Eurasian steppe as such conditions win more and more popularity as explanans
of significant changes
, but it did not work out. To our dismay and because of different reasons
the western steppes and Central Asia are less represented than we wished for.
We subdivided the contributions into four parts: “Nomadic Empires – Modes of Analysis”
encompasses highly different approaches to interpretations and analyses of nomadic empires,
ranging from computational agent-based models, over anthropological to historical methodol-
ogy. Better than any perfect introduction this multi-facetted research shows how exciting it is
to deal with this area much neglected in World History. Although the section “Xiongnu, the
Han Empire and the Oriental Koine” assembles merely three contributions, it covers more than
260 pages. If nothing else, this certainly echoes the boom of Xiongnu archaeology of the past
decades. By taking into account enormous amounts of archaeological, art historical, and written
sources the authors surmount traditional and often too static schemes of interpretation. These
new analyses detect an astonishing variety of interactions during the centuries around the turn
of the era, which broadens our understanding of this epoch and provides new avenues for other
regions and periods at the same time. In the third section, “Inner and Central Asia from the
Türks to the Mongols”, nine contributions exemplify a multicolored and almost continuously
changing picture of languages, ethnicities, and political affinities for Inner and Central Asia from
the sixth to the twelfth centuries. Political affinities, however, were changing so quickly due to
situational demands as to almost refute all efforts to retrace them within the archaeological
record. Decision makers were astonishingly well informed about even distant regions and they
acted accordingly over vast distances. The studies at hand analyze exchange processes on varying
See for the Scyths for example W. Menghin/H. Par -
zinger/A. Nagler/M. Nawroth (eds.), Im Zeichen des
goldenen Greifen. Königsgräber der Skythen. Begleit-
band zur gleichnamigen Ausstellung: Berlin, Martin-
Gropius-Bau, 6. Juli – 1. Oktober 2007; München,
Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, 26. Oktober
2007 – 20. Januar 2008; Hamburg, Museum für Kunst
und Gewerbe Hamburg, 15. Februar – 25. Mai 2008
(München, Berlin 2007); H. Parzinger, Die Skythen.
3rd ed. (München 2009); J. Aruz (ed.), The Golden
Deer of Eurasia: Scythian and Sarmatian Treasures
from the Russian Steppes (New York, New Haven
2000); J. Aruz/A. Farkas/A. Alekseev/E. Korolkova
(eds.), The Golden Deer of Eurasia. Perspectives on the
Steppe Nomads of the Ancient World. The Metropol-
itan Museum of Art Symposia (New Haven 2006). See
for the Mongol period Dschingis Khan und seine
Erben. Das Weltreich der Mongolen (2005); W. W.
Fitzhugh/M. Rossabi/W. Honeychurch (eds.), Genghis
Khan and the Mongol Empire (Seattle 2009); see also
the website of the European Research Council Grant
“Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in
Mongol Eurasia”, which pro-
vides an extensive bibliography.
N. Pederson/A. Hessl/N. Baatarbileg/K. Anchukaitis/
N. Di Cosmo, Pluvials, Droughts, the Mongol Empire,
and Modern Mongolia. Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences 111, 2014, 4375–4379; J. Fei/
J. Zhou/Y. Hou, Circa A.D. 626 Volcanic Eruption,
Climatic Cooling, and the Collapse of the Eastern Tur-
kic Empire. Climatic Change 81, 2007, 469–475.
levels – from language to embassies – as well as aspects of mobility, from the integration of for-
eign symbols of power to large-scale migrations, or methods of state-building to the strategic
destruction of complex states. The last section combines papers that focus on “Nomadic Inter-
action with the Roman and Byzantine West” traversing the Eurasian steppe zone from east to
west. These case studies, either already comparative or suitable for further comparisons, give
reason to assume that although there are certain encompassing communalities every conquest
and struggle with the empires of the West is historically unique. At the same time it becomes
apparent that the knowledge base of the decision makers in the Roman Empire had been greater
than hitherto thought.
The variety of studies assembled in this volume leaves no doubt as to how dynamically and
diversely the interactions, processes, and transformations developed in the Eurasian steppe zone.
These changes cannot be studied under common schemes of interpretation which are more often
than not inseparable from overcome clichés.
Chinese names and terms have been transliterated according to the Pinyin system, Russian
names and references according to the system of the Library of Congress. Arabic, Persian,
and Turkic names and terms appear in the form chosen by the authors of the individual chap-
The conference had been jointly prepared and organized together with Ursula Brosseder and
Timo Stickler. We thank both of them for their cordial and companionable collaboration.
Susanne Reichert engaged to such an extent in the editing work of the papers that it was a delight
for us to include her as co-editor. The edition of this volume in addition to ongoing obligations
and projects could only be managed as a team.
Our heartfelt thanks also goes to Daniel Waugh, Seattle, who has helped us now repeatedly
with translations and language editing. Without his honorary efforts we would never have been
able to integrate Sergey Vasyutin’s thoughts in this book. Thanks to his enormous overview and
language knowledge Peter Golden saved us from mistakes concerning the correct transliteration
of names in the contributions of Tatiana Skrynnikova and Sergey Vasyutin. Image editing lay
in Gisela Höhn’s sterling hands. She also promoted to create – as far as possible – a unified map
basis for all contributions as to facilitate visualizing the different regions. Editing work was
done by the proven team Ute Arents and Güde Bemmann, substantially supported by Susanne
Reichert. We owe Alicia Ventresca Miller, Kiel, as a native speaker many suggestions for im-
provement and stimuli. All authors and editors highly appreciate their painstaking efforts. For
desktop publishing, which in the face of a multitude of different scripts demands unconventional
solutions, we were able to win Matthias Weis. If not stated otherwise, images were provided by
the authors and merely serve to illustrate.
The conference was made possible by the generous financial support from the Gerda Henkel
Foundation. As always, it was our delight to collaborate with the foundation, a cooperation
characterized by mutual trust. The meeting took place in the LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn, which
during the same time displayed the exhibition “Steppe Warriors – Nomads on Horseback of
Mongolia from the 7th to 14th centuries” (“Steppenkrieger – Reiternomaden des 7.–14. Jahrhun-
derts aus der Mongolei”). Thus the participants had the opportunity to get insight into an on-
going cooperation between the Institute of Archaeology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences,
the Department of Prehistory and Early Historical Archaeology of the University of Bonn, and
the LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn. We thank the State Association of the Rhineland (Land-
schaftverband Rheinland) for the use of rooms and technical equipment of the museum and the
financial support in printing this volume.
Our sincere thanks is owed to everyone who contributed to the success of the conference and
the resulting book. With great joy we remember the inspiring and cordial atmosphere during
the meeting.
Jan Bemmann, Michael Schmauder March 2015
Prof. Dr. Jan Bemmann
Prehistory and Early Historical Archaeology
University of Bonn
Regina-Pacis-Weg 7
53113 Bonn, Germany
Prof. Dr. Michal Biran
Institute of Asian and African Studies
The Louis Frieberg Center for East Asian
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Mt. Scopus
Jerusalem, 91905, Israel
Dr. Ursula B. Brosseder
Prehistory and Early Historical Archaeology
University of Bonn
Regina-Pacis-Weg 7
53113 Bonn, Germany
Prof. Dr. Claudio Cioffi-Revilla
Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study
Computational Social Science, Center for
Social Complexity
George Mason University
Research-1 Bldg MS 6B2,
4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030, USA
Prof. Dr. Nicola Di Cosmo
Henry Luce Foundation Professor of
East Asian Studies
School of Historical Studies
Institute for Advanced Study
Einstein Drive
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
Prof. Dr. Michael R. Drompp
Department of History
Rhodes College
2000 North Parkway
Memphis, TN38112, USA
Prof. Dr. Peter B. Golden
Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Rutgers University
Lucy Stone Hall B-316
54 Joyce Kilmer Avenue
Piscataway, NJ 08854, USA
Prof. Dr. Thomas O. Höllmann
Institute for Chinese Studies
Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich
Kaulbachstr. 51a
80539 München, Germany
E-Mail: thomas.hoellmann@lrz.uni-
Ass. Prof. Dr. William Honeychurch
Department of Anthropology
Yale University
51 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CN 06511, USA
Prof. Dr. Nikolai N. Kradin
Russian Academy of Sciences,
Far Eastern Branch
Institute of History, Archaeology and
Pushkinskaia Ul. 10
Vladivostok, 690950, Russia
Prof. Dr. Étienne de la Vaissière
École des hautes études en sciences sociales
Centre d’Études Turques, Ottomanes, Balka-
niques et Centrasiatiques (CETOBaC)
190–198, Avenue de France
75244 Paris Cedex 13, France
Prof. Dr. Mischa Meier
Department of History
University of Tübingen
Wilhelmstr. 36
72074 Tübingen, Germany
Dr. Bryan K. Miller
Faculty of History
University of Oxford
George Street
Oxford OX1 2RL, United Kingdom
Prof. Dr. Marek Jan Olbrycht
Institute of History
University of Rzeszów
Ul. Rejtana 16c
35-959 Rzeszów, Poland
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Paul
Institute for Oriental Studies
Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg
Mühlweg 15
06114 Halle/Saale, Germany
Prof. Dr. Walter Pohl
Institute for Medieval Research
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Wohllebengasse 12-14
1040 Wien, Austria
Dr. J. Daniel Rogers
Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of Natural History
Department of Anthropology, NHB 112
PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013, USA
Prof. Dr. Michael Schmauder
LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn
Colmantstr. 14-16
53115 Bonn, Germany
Prof. Dr. Tatiana Skrynnikova
The Department of Central Asian and South
Asian Studies
Institute of Oriental Manuscripts
Russian Academy of Sciences
Dvortsovaya Emb. 18
Sankt-Petersburg 191186, Russia
Ass. Prof. Dr. Sören Stark
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
New York University
15 East 84th St.
New York City, NY 10028, USA
Prof. Dr. Timo Stickler
Department of Ancient Studies
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Fürstengraben 1
07743 Jena, Germany
Prof. Dr. Pavel E. Tarasov
Institute of Geological Sciences, Palaeontology
Freie Universität Berlin
Malteserstr. 74-100, Haus D
12249 Berlin, Germany
Dr. Sergey Aleksandrovich Vasyutin
Department of the History of Civilizations
and Socio-Cultural Communications
Kemerovo State University
650043 Kemerovo, Russia
Prof. Dr. Mayke Wagner
Branch office of the Eurasia Department in
German Archaeological Institute
Im Dol 2-6, Haus II
14195 Berlin, Germany
Edited by Jan Bemmann
1. H. Roth/U. Erdenebat/E. Nagel/E. Pohl (eds.),
Qara Qorum City (Mongolei) 1.
Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Volume 1 (Bonn 2002).
Out of print – ISBN 3-936490-01-5
2. J. Bemmann/U. Erdenebat/E. Pohl (eds.),
Mongolian-German Karakorum-Expedition, Volume 1.
Excavations in the Craftsmen-Quarter at the Main Road.
Forschungen zur Archäologie Außereuropäischer Kulturen 8 =
Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Volume 2 (Wiesbaden 2009).
€ 98,00 – ISBN 978-3-89500-697-5
3. P. B. Konovalov,
The Burial Vault of a Xiongnu Prince at Sudzha (Il’movaia pad’, Transbaikalia).
Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Volume 3 (Bonn 2008).
€ 13,90 – ISBN 3-936490-29-5
4. J. Bemmann/H. Parzinger/E. Pohl/D. Tseveendorzh (eds.),
Current Archaeological Research in Mongolia. Papers from the First International
Conference on “Archaeological Research in Mongolia”, held in Ulaanbaatar,
August 19th–23rd, 2007.
Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Volume 4 (Bonn 2009).
€ 74,00 – ISBN 978-3-936490-31-2
5. Ursula Brosseder/Bryan K. Miller (eds.),
Xiongnu Archaeology. Multidisciplinary Perspectives of the
First Steppe Empire in Inner Asia.
Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Volume 5 (Bonn 2011).
€ 80,00 – ISBN 978-3-936490-14-7
6. Catrin Kost,
The practice of imagery in the northern Chinese steppe (5th – 1st centuries BCE).
Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Volume 6 (Bonn 2014).
€ 98,00 – ISBN 978-3-936490-32-9
7. J. Bemmann/M. Schmauder (eds.),
Complexity of Interaction along the Eurasian Steppe Zone in the first Millennium CE
Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Volume 7 (Bonn 2015).
€ 111,00 – ISBN 978-3-936490-14-7
Orders and information: (1, 3–7), (2)
Full-text available
Trends in interdisciplinary research over the last two decades have opened new perspectives and pushed forward our understanding of how complex social systems function. This study explores several theories of social change that have emerged from increasingly interdisciplinary perspectives in combination with complexity theory. Resilience theory and related concepts of adaptive cycles and panarchy are now being applied extensively to the study of a variety of human social systems. However, there is still the need to further explore the implications of how human systems differ from the ecologies of other species. A case study drawn from early polity formation in Inner Asia is used to assess the effectiveness of differing approaches. Certain theoretical gaps are described and a series of concepts within a theory of dynamic trajectories are proposed that focus on high-level patterns of social change. The basic elements of the theory include dynamics of the scope and scale of polities, the probability space in which change occurs, and the strands or bundles of social and cultural characteristics that represent the substance of trajectory. As the trajectory patterns manifest, they envelop constraints and opportunities influencing future patterns. Agent-based models are used to illustrate aspects of the dynamic trajectory theory, especially economic decision-making within specific landscapes and control hierarchies in the context of competing polities. Rather than repeating cycles, the results reveal reorganization modes highlighting the significance of continuity and opportunity in social change.
Full-text available
Arsacid Iran and the Nomads of Central Asia – Ways of Cultural Transfer, in: Complexity of Interaction along the Eurasian Steppe Zone in the First Millenium CE, Edited by Jan Bemmann, Michael Schmauder (Bonn Contributions to Asian Archaeology, Volume 7) Bonn 2015 [Vor- und Fruhgeschichtliche Archäologie, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn], 333-390.
Full-text available
The power of rulers of the Eurasia steppe empires has been based largely on the external sources. The Khans were supreme military leaders of nomadic empires and had a monopoly on presentation of the steppe polity in the foreign political relations with other countries and nations. A mechanism connecting the ‘government’ of the steppe empire and pastoral tribes was the institution of a gift economy. By manipulating gifts and distributing them among comrades-in-arms and tribal chiefs, the ruler of the steppe empire strengthened his potential influence and prestige as the ‘generous khan’. Simultaneously, he bound the persons receiving gifts by the ‘liability’ of the return gift. Tribal chiefs receiving gifts might, on the one hand, satisfy their personal appetites and might, on the other hand, strengthen their intratribal status by a distribution of gifts to fellow tribesmen or by organizing ceremonial feasts. Besides, receiving a gift from the ruler, the tribal chief felt as if he also received some part of the ruler's supernatural charisma, which contributed additionally to the rise of his own prestige. The integration of tribes into the imperial confederation was performed not only by symbolic exchange of gifts between chiefs of different ranks and the khan. The same purpose was achieved by inclusion in the genealogical kindred of different stock-breeding groups, diverse collective arrangements and ceremonies (seasonal meetings of chiefs and festivals, battues, erection of monumental funeral structures etc.).
This book provides an overview of Bronze Age societies of Western Eurasia through an investigation of the archaeological record. Philip L. Kohl outlines the long-term processes and patterns of interaction that link these groups together in a shared historical trajectory of development. Interactions took the form of the exchange of raw materials and finished goods, the spread and sharing of technologies, and the movements of peoples from one region to another. Kohl reconstructs economic activities from subsistence practices to the production and exchange of metals and other materials. He also examines long-term processes, such as the development of more mobile forms of animal husbandry, which were based on the introduction and large-scale utilization of oxen-drive wheeled wagons and, subsequently, the domestication and riding of horses; the spread of metalworking technologies and exploitation of new centers of metallurgical production; changes in systems of exchange from those dominated by the movement of luxury goods to those in which materials essential for maintaining and securing the reproduction of the societies participating in the exchange network accompanied and/or supplanted the trade in precious materials; and increasing evidence for militarism and political instabilities as reflected in shifts in settlement patterns, including increases in fortified sites, and quantitative and qualitative advances in weaponry. Kohl also argues forcefully that the main task of the archaeologist should be to write culture-history on a spatially and temporally grand scale in an effort to detect large, macrohistorical processes of interaction and shared development.
How do landscapes-defined in the broadest sense to incorporate the physical contours of the built environment, the aesthetics of form, and the imaginative reflections of spatial representations-contribute to the making of politics? Shifting through the archaeological, epigraphic, and artistic remains of early complex societies, this provocative and far-reaching book is the first systematic attempt to explain the links between spatial organization and politics from an anthropological point of view. The Classic-period Maya, the kingdom of Urartu, and the cities of early southern Mesopotamia provide the focal points for this multidimensional account of human polities. Are the cities and villages in which we live and work, the lands that are woven into our senses of cultural and personal identity, and the national territories we occupy merely stages on which historical processes and political rituals are enacted? Or do the forms of buildings and streets, the evocative sensibilities of architecture and vista, the aesthetics of place conjured in art and media constitute political landscapes-broad sets of spatial practices critical to the formation, operation, and overthrow of polities, regimes, and institutions? Smith brings together contemporary theoretical developments from geography and social theory with anthropological perspectives and archaeological data to pursue these questions.
Distinguishing four sources of power in human societies - ideological, economic, military and political - The Sources of Social Power traces their interrelations throughout human history. In this first volume, Michael Mann examines interrelations between these elements from neolithic times, through ancient Near Eastern civilizations, the classical Mediterranean age and medieval Europe, up to just before the Industrial Revolution in England. It offers explanations of the emergence of the state and social stratification; of city-states, militaristic empires and the persistent interaction between them; of the world salvation religions; and of the particular dynamism of medieval and early modern Europe. It ends by generalizing about the nature of overall social development, the varying forms of social cohesion and the role of classes and class struggle in history. First published in 1986, this new edition of Volume 1 includes a new preface by the author examining the impact and legacy of the work.
The emergence of states is an enduring focus for anthropologists. Identifying when and under what circumstances this political transformation has occurred in independent cases is necessary if we wish to evaluate competing ideas explaining the origins of states. This has proved difficult, however, in part because the process is not easy to understand with largely archaeological evidence, but more importantly because it is not a unitary and rapid process. Study of different trajectories toward more complex political organization in Madagascar-where we have an understanding based on archaeology, ethnohistory, and ethnography-provides an illustration of the complexities of what may be termed an experimental process. In turn, viewing of earlier trajectories of state emergence in Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica as series of interrelated political experiments may also resolve long-standing problems in dealing with these developments.