Landscapes of death, monuments of power: mortuary practice, power, and identity in Bronze-Iron Age Mongolia Public Deposited

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Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
Creator
  • Johannesson, Erik G.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
Abstract
  • This dissertation focuses on the material manifestation in mortuary practice of political centralization with the emergence of the first nomadic steppe empire in East Asia, the Xiongnu (209 BCE-200 CE). The formation of the Xiongnu polity entailed sweeping changes in technology, monument construction, and funerary behavior that radically transformed the mortuary landscape of Mongolia. Research on the Xiongnu Empire has typically centered on mortuary monuments and accompanying funerary assemblages. Most interpretive models have either sought to link materials found in graves with socio-economic processes or to historical narratives derived from ancient Chinese texts. This study contributes a new and somewhat challenging facet to these models by questioning the nature of the data itself and the range of behaviors and materials that are employed to create socially meaningful narratives that corroborate dead leaders. Here I assert the necessity to consider that mortuary monuments are mnemonic devices that commemorate both the dead and the living through ideologically and politically oriented symbolism. Using archaeological materials derived from survey and excavation at Baga Gazaryn Chuluu in Mongolia I demonstrate that political centralization is evident in the way social memory was created in mortuary practice. I employ a qualitative and conceptual framework that argues that commemorative narratives can be created at different scales. Using this paradigm, I illustrate how Xiongnu mortuary practice restricted individuals' and communities' ability to create social memory in the long durée, as had previously been the norm, by shifting funerary practice towards emphasizing social memory on a micro-scale. I also emphasize the need to consider disruption events as an additional line of evidence and also illustrate how desecration was used as a political strategy before and during the Xiongnu period to alter social memory created by and for local lineages of leadership.
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  • In Copyright
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  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Anthropology."
Advisor
  • Crumley, Carole L.
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Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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  • Open access
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