About the problem of clan and communal organization in the societies of Kasakhstan in the Bronze Age 

One of the most difficult problems of the Kazakhstan Bronze Age archeology is the reconstruction of the ancient society. The study of the clan as the basis of the social organization of the population is the important part of this problem. In the article the problem is discussed as to the typology of the clan and community, their essential features and evolution during all stages of the Bronze Age in the Kazakhstan region. Succession in the development of these social institutions in the different archaeological cultures is observed. The analysis of the key socially significant archaeological markers was made on the basis of settlements and funerary complexes. The author of the article proves the thesis as to predominantly matriarchal system of the social connections within clan and community of the Kazakhstan Bronze Age. Also the question is raised as to the existence of the special social unit such as clans of professional metallurgists.

The clan organization is an indispensable institute of a traditional society. Clan is one of the most ancient forms of human society organization as important social and domestic collective. Clan is «a group of people which trace back their origin to a common ancestor — clan founder or clan progenitor — using one lineage (maternal or paternal). The progenitor is not necessarily a human it also can be a mythological  hero, deity, even an animal. In the last case the progenitor is the totem of clan. Lineage and clan is the two basic forms of clan organization» [1; 36–45].

Lineage is «the most common from of clan union organization in the complex non-state (as well as in archaic state) societies which have paternal or maternal filiation based on genealogical principle. All lineage members can trace back their genealogical links to one another which lead to a real ancestor» [2]. There are maternal and paternal lineages, small and big, maximal and minimal. Often they are exogamous» [1; 36–45].

Clan — «1.Clan community (initially of the Celtic peoples). 2. (figurative) Closed group of people united by kinship or business interests etc.» [3].

Undoubtedly in the Bronze Age, during great economical changes which lead to significant social, cultural and perhaps ethnic changes in the process of collectivization of migrations and conflicts for the resources, the movement and mixtures of many clan collectives also took place. The consequence of it was unavoidable replacement of blood-kinship links by genealogical links.

Ethno-potestarian unit which united big family collectives in the Bronze Age was a community corresponding to clan (or genealogical) structure. «Family community was productive collective and collective labor presupposed collective property. As the time went by, especially in the period of Late Bronze Age, some family communities which gained strength were striving more and more to isolate themselves and it led to appearance of family property» [4; 124]. During all period of the region Bronze Age we witness the process of gradual property acquisition, strengthening of proprietary inequality and clan decomposition which is especially good pronounced on the late stage of the Bronze Age. This circumstance speaks for the evident difference between the Bronze Age community and classic clan community. At the same time the researchers state that it is impossible to interpret archaeological findings as evidences of the neighbor community in its developed forms. V.V.Еvdokimov mentions that up to the beginning of the XX century «...pastoral-nomadic community of cattle-breeders of Kazakhstan and Middle Asia... was a form of neighborclan community and, therefore, had not overcome the boundaries of the first stage of neighbor (territorial) community formation» [5; 100]. This statement is fully corresponds to our knowledge on the Bronze Age societies under investigation.

The role of the clan, which is the basis of neighboor-clan communities, is also very important and understanding of its nature can help us to define real boundaries of the societies being studied. Traditional clan division is inherited to almost all preindustrial societies and is traced on the territory of Kazakhstan starting with the Eneolithic period. In the funeral rite of the Botai culture there is practice of group interment and use of posthumous masks, which is an attribute of the ancestors cult [6; 23].

In neighbor-clan community the kinship of all its members is based not on a real blood kinship but on the mythologically framed links which can be traced back to the concept of common origin. Therefore the new type of the community was functioning on the basis of ancient concepts about kinship of its members.

What type of relationships substituted the blood kinship link? In order to answer this question we suppose that it is advisory to refer to the more discussed in the literature system of the Kazakhstan steppes nomads society elements, they were the successors of the Bronze Age population and continued their traditions in the region. We think that as the justification for such reference can serve the similarity of community organization type of the Kazakhstan nomadic societies and Bronze Age societies which, on the whole, were both on the same stage of transition from clan community to the neighbor (territorial) community [5; 100]. Further we will give some information on the history of nomadic communities and clans formation.

The characteristics of the «classic» blood kinship were developed by F.Engels. Among them are: 1. Election of elder (only among the clan members) and leader — military leader. 2. The clan members have right to replace elder or leader by common decision. 3. Strict exogamy. 4. The property of the dead was passed to the clan members without leaving the clan boundaries. 5. Necessary mutual assistance and support of the clan members. 6. Presence of a name characteristic for a group. 7. The clan could adopt aliens. 8. The clan has religious functions. 9. Common place for interment. 10. The clan has a council which is democratic meeting of all adult clan members solving common problems [7; 97–100]. Such clan was center of clan community. Taking into consideration that ideology is fairly conservative part of social conscience we can suppose that the clan institute was preserved as formal and ideological cover of more developed community mechanism which was based on territorial links.

In the conditions of transition to the territorial organization which is the most pronounced in the case of nomads with their disperse economy and frequent migrations the real structure of kinship links of some collectives was broken. The clan boundaries of the nomads become extremely blurred and was substituted in the course of time by «pseudo-kinship» concept which states that all members of such clan origin from one common «progenitor» without reference to the real ancestors. Because of the mentioned peculiarities of nomadic mode of life the observance of exogamy rules become inappropriate. As the result the «classic» clan connected with primeval community and appropriating economy was substituted among the nomads by the new community type that is neighbor-clan organization. This structure was ideal for the new economic conditions. The blood kinship in the neighbor-clan community become less important in comparison with the economic interests. Therefore in the correlation of kinship and production links within the community of nomads the latter were more important. As an illustration we will use information on the nomadic clans of historically known societies. D.K.Kshibekov mentioned: «Nomadic cattle-breeders lived in clans, tribes, however those clans only bore the name of blood-kinship union of people, but in reality they had long ago ceased to be such unions and now represented a new social formation» [8; 149]. N.E.Masanov underlined that genealogical organization as the basis of nomadic clan «existed only in social conscience but in reality it existed nowhere and had never led to the appearance of real community» [9; 132]. «The nomads are not alien to concept of territory belonging to one or another community. The specific feature of such concept is that territorial links in their society usually are not seen as it is in reality but the perception of them is mediated and realized in relationships of kinship (primogeniture)» [10; 243].

As the main reasons of the clan traditions breakage, especially tradition of exogamy, we can name 2 factors: 1 — migration of big groups of population which led to the breakage of blood kinship links and intermixing of clans and tribes; 2 — change of the union principles because of the economic peculiarities. A.A.Tkachyev writes: «In the conditions of cattle-breeding economy form the mobile mode of life did not ruin clan structure but transformed it in a special social form, basing on the individual ownership right on cattle. The kinship of the great population groups (clans) existed only in ideal form as genealogical system» [11; 23,24].

We suppose that both those reasons in the Bronze Age played significant role but the basic reason was the change of economy type, first of all, appearance of mobile forms of cattle-breeding and developed metallurgy.

In the beginning of 2nd millennium BC in the steppes of Southern Ural and Northern Kazakhstan appeared large metallurgy centers. «Metal production along with the pastoral cattle-breeding became one of the basic industries of Sintashta society» [12; 31]. The necessity to develop and exploit ore bases, need to organize production and exchange of metal and metal products, possibly had led to the new form of collective organization such as cooperation of masters metallurgists, which densely populates special settlements providing the wide neighborhood with their products. Such collectives could be metallurgists clans which were some kind of equivalent of a «common» community. B.N.Vinogradov compares the size of Sintashta clan with big family community [12; 32]. However large settlements of metallurgists of the later Kazakhstan Bronze Age stages (Semiozernoye II, Atasu I, Kent) make us suppose that the number of members in such clans were greater and corresponded to the size of neighbor-clan community. As in the case of neighbor-clan community the clans were united on the basis of territorial links and some ideas of common origin based on the common professional interests and cohabitation. N.B.Vinigradov writes: «metallurgy and metalworking organized in accordance with family-clan principle, can... explain... peculiarity of social structure  of Sintashta and partially Petrovka population of Southern Trans-Urals» [12; 32,33]. He underlined Sintashta antiquities as evidences of the first stage of cultural genesis [12; 33]. This circumstance can explain small number of Sintashta clans which eventually, along with the metal production volume growth and new deposits development, had grown bigger and become large collectives equivalent to neighbor-clan community. In this case we witness appearance of new and progressive for the epoch form of ethno-potestarian organization in the Trans-Urals steppes, which was based on economic territorial principle and which was spread eventually on the whole territory of Kazakhstan specially in its Northern and Central regions.

«Unspecialized» communities also underwent significant changes. A.A.Tkachyev mentioned that population growth which led to migration of Ural and Northern Kazakhstan tribes of the Middle Bronze Age to regions with favorable conditions called to existence «the need for government centralization, however clan organization is not able to play such role therefore appeared «military-nomadic» form of organization. After the migration of the surplus population the conditions become normal and former relationships: of genealogical kinship on the level of clans and blood kinship on the level of communities (big families. — A.G.) were restored» [11; 24].

The analysis of the Bronze Age pottery can reveal community structure [5; 103–107]. V.G.Loman used the analysis data of the recipes of pottery production from settlements and sepulchers of the Bronze Age in order to find out whether potestarian collectives of the Central and Northern Kazakhstan had open or   closed character [13]. On the basis of the inferences of this work V.V.Yevdokimov made supposition that the contacts between big families of the Bronze Age become more intensified and this fact led to the transformation of clan communities into neighbor-clan communities [5; 106].

Therefore we can say that in the Kazakhstan steppes was adopted neighbor-clan community of transient type which had varied genealogical principles of organization and which acquired by the end of the Bronze Age patriarchal clan forms characteristic for the whole Eurasian population in the next era.

We shall try to define archaeological markers of the Kazakhstan Bronze Age neighbor-clan community by dividing sources in materials of settlements and funeral complexes.

Settlements. Because of the fact that community (as well as masters-metallurgists clan) was relatively closed ethnic social organism it had definite space limits. «Spacial localization of individual community is defined strictly enough because the place of living of its members was individual Bronze Age settlement» [5; 108].

The Sintashta settlements which reflect the very nature of potestarian institutes of society, as if in a concentrated form, we can define the place of living of individual neighbor-clan community as individual section, «living block», which consists of uninterrupted row of houses united, possibly, under one common roof. In Arkaim, for example, the limit of such blocks is gates — gaps in the line of houses. It is difficult to find such analogue in Sintashta because more than half of this settlement is ruined.

Petrovka settlements can be divided in accordance with section principle. It is possible that Ustye settlement trenches of which were foundations of living quarters even in the preceding Sintashta time, were at the same time populated by two communities connected by friendly relationships and may be by marital relationships. As the clan settlements of the Petrovka time we can name Semiozernoey II settlement.

Such metallurgists clans settlements existed in the steppe during all Bronze Age symbolizing the most important source of power and wealth of the collectives which created them, that is metallurgical production. In Saryarka there are Atasu I and II, in the Late Bronze Age — Alat and several other settlements of Kyzylkent valley [4; 100, 102].

The middle layer of Ikpen I settlement (XV-XIV BC) is «the first case of living quarters functional purpose definition in Fedorovka culture» [4; 96]. Studying this settlement, which undoubtedly was created by community collective, we can see its rational architectural compositional decision. Here we can outline 4 functional zones. The central part of the living block was occupied by house of a priest (it is possible that the same person was the head of the community which had sacral power in the eyes of its common members). The house on the periphery of the settlement was workshop of metallurgist. We suppose that such location is not random. Because of the fact that blacksmithing was «dirty» and fire hazardous the workshop was located on the side of settlement that helped to minimize the risk of neighboring structures inflammation, especially taking into consideration strong winds which blow in Saryarka during the most part of the year. The house of «priest» was surrounded by houses of plain members of community. It is possible that such layout had some sacral sense making «house of priest» a sacred center of settlement and whole community.

Sepulchers. Funeral marker of neighboor-clan community is individual necropolis. On many necropolises there are funerary monuments which stand out and differ from the tombs of plain people.

We believe that «extraordinary» tombs which were found in Saryarka necropolises only one or two times, especially those which contained chariots or their imitation, are connected with the founders of the communities, which created necropolis, a sort of «pioneers» (first settlers) on the community land.

Taking into consideration variety of family and marital relationships marked by the researchers and possibly the variety of systems of kinship definition in the cultures of the Andronovо circle and their predecessor (see above), we can suppose that in the case of clan collectives with maternal kinship definition migration changed in some way their ideology, however, without breaking its foundation. For example in the majority of cases the central tombs in the mounds and within the fences of Nurtai sepulcher were occupied by women with children and can be connected with the matriliny of community which created this necropolis. For the objects of Nurtai type it is characteristic that in the center of a fence was situated tomb of a woman (Nurtai, Bozengen etc.) which is surrounded by tombs of other relatives with children. A woman could formally be the head of a community or of a big family, playing role of a «matron».

Therefore sepulcher of a man with chariot imitation in the society where there was no pronounced patriarchal ideology underline his rare, extraordinary status which he had during his life-time. We should not forget that despite all ideological boundaries the main social and economic functions in the society with developed cattle-breeder economy were performed by men. We think that the sepulcher 2 of Nurtai burial ground was family grave of a respected warrior-pioneer (military head?), community founder on this territory. Placement of remains of a woman (perhaps, his wife) and of three children in his tomb underlines his link with feminine nature of clan and community [14; 162–165]. In the same way we can interpret man`s tomb 10 in mound 8 of Bozengen burial ground, which was the center of burial ground and in accordance with planigraphy it was the most ancient tomb (covered by tomb 9) [14; 211]. It also could be one of the founders of new community. As indirect evidence of the fact that those men were «pioneers» we can take the chronology of the burial grounds. They pertain to Alakul stage corresponding to Novokumak horizon (XVI BC), and Bozengen was created even earlier, in other words in the era of active colonization of the steppe by Petrovka and Early-Alakul people moving to Saryarka from the North-West [14; 201, 248].

The migration processes of the Bronze Age could not have left without changes marital relationships between communities. It is possible that the part of the communities preserved traditional exogamous links. A.A.Tkachyev mentioned following while describing burial places Balykty and Zvenigorodka located near to each other: «The resemblance of basic features of these objects ceramic complexes gives us right to suppose that they were created at the same time by closely related collectives» [15; 39]. Possibly it is burial grounds of two exogamous clans (neighbor-clan communities), which in ancient times populated neighboring territories and had common tradition of ceramics production. [5; 103–107]. It is possible that such exogamous «pairs» of clan-communities which can be ideologically traced back to legendary ancestors could have common myths related to the widely spread in ancient times twin-brothers cult, which is reflected in the scenes of rock art [4; 125].

Filiation in neighbor-clan community. Linearity of clan collectives possibly depended on forms of family and marital relationships. Contemporary researches speak for changeability existing during all period of the region history. A.A.Tkachyev defined potestarian organization of migrating tribes of the Kazakhstan Bronze Age as «military-nomadiс». After the situation in the society had become normal the need for this organization ceased to exist and it was substituted by traditional clan (genealogical) organization. A.A.Tkachyev came to the conclusion about cyclic recurrence in social history of Andronovo circle tribes — from Early-Alakul «military-nomadic» collectives to the restoration of former clan structures of Alakul and Fedorovka peoples. By the end of the Bronze Age success in economy led to appearance of nomadic communities of clearly patriarchal type. [11; 24].

Migration of the tribes affects marital relationships: the traditions of exogamy were broken because exogamy was only possible in the stable settled condition of society. «However Andronovo collectives were not endogamous, also existed more common principle of epigamia» [11; 24], and the consequence of this fact was increased diversity of ethnic components in an individual community sections of which organized on community burial grounds their own blocks and thus can be explained diversity of funeral rites [11; 25]. We believe that in the conditions of unstable social environment, communities intermixing and growing of number of «partner» marital clans the population faced the problem of wealth distribution and property inheritance. The optimal way to solve it was matriliny which was possibly supported by a female deity cult [16]. Eventually when the collectives had become settled in comparatively limited areas the marital union became exogamous once again. In Andronovo time the kinship was traced in most cases using maternal lineage. Those processes were reflected in the details of funeral rituals [11; 24–25].

It is possible to suppose that sacralization of feminine nature in matriliny societies of the unstable era of XVII-XVI centuries BC gave birth to special ideology in which a woman was considered to be sacred patroness of clan and community serving as its symbol and sort of «talisman», mistress and leader of all collective members. A man despite the fact that he performed basic social economic functions (cattle-care, instruments production, metal mining and metalwork, exchange, armed defense of his family and property) played role of a helper, supplier and loyal guardian of a woman. With it was also connected cult permeated with the ideas of feminine deity worship with which included even such uncharacteristic for steppe callee-breeders rituals as religious transvestism [16].

Clan linearity and therefore ideological side of community life we can indirectly trace through historical stages on the basis of the mentioned sepulchers. There are 4 stages of the region cattle-breeder social history. 1 — for Sintashta society — the main cultural economic basis of development of following region cultures possibly was matrilineal lineages and strong sacralization of feminine nature which was reflected in special cult (fertility goddess?) but it was not an obstacle for significant role of men in economic and   political processes.

  • in Petrovka culture in the period of resettlement and adaptation to steppes of Early–Andronovo groups the significance of men`s, warriors-charioteers, tombs increased Their central location in necropolises along with the evidences of possible military tension in the region make us suppose that Petrovka society was patrilineal, however possibly only as a result of non-durable situation of military tension. It is also possible that those tombs were signs of respects for leaders who conquered for their communities new land, but role of potestarian leader was played by a woman. The region situation stabilization restored matriliny in clan and community.
  • Alakul and Fedorovka culture. In the objects of these communities we see considerable variability of funeral rites, settlement organization and ceramics types. It speaks for multiplicity and variety of the ethno-cultural groups pertaining to them and coexistence in different regions of Andronovo area of communities with different development levels and kinship With certain reservations we can suppose that Alakul communities because of less mobile economy type and possibly slower growth of surplus product during long period of time kept archaic forms of clan organization and had matrilineal or egalitarian filiation. Fedorovka collectives first of all because of their more pronounced «cattle-breeding» character (and more mobile live-mode as we can suppose on the basis of instruments found in their tombs), and, secondly, because of more developed technology due to the advanced skills in metallurgy which gave high level of wealth and created the necessity to control and distribute this wealth were patriarchal and partilineal (however, we do not exclude possibility that they could be egalitarian in regard to kinship tracing). Therefore, the economic peculiarities of ancient tribes, taking into consideration high level of situationality characteristic for many mobile cattle-breeder collectives, could determine actual historical forms of their potestarian organization.
  • the Bronze Age End cultures — Begazy–Dandybai and Alexeyevka–Sargary cultures pertain to the societies combining developed forms of mobile cattle-breeding and high level of metallurgy development. In these societies the layer of tribal aristocrats who control riches is already pronounced and at the same time from community become isolated small independent households — small families [4; 124]. These societies which were standing on the threshold of early state formation creation [4; 124] most likely tended to patriarchal organization forms. Such forms we observe in their developed form be the Kazakh steppe nomads in the Early Iron Age and in following historical

Community members social functions. On the basis of archaeological materials interpretation we can define common features of functions of neighbor-clan community and relationships existing between them. As the main indicators should be considered data as to funeral rites which evidences statuses and roles of the interred if not during their lives but at least in «ideal» vision of social life.

The basic criteria for social roles distribution in community were such universal factors as age and gender. «Social structure... of the society was built on gender differences» [17; 248].

Man, attributes of which were bones of different domestic animals, knives, arms (or chariot), is represented as supplier, defender of his family and community, prudent owner of herds (we believe that knife was an indispensable attribute of a shepherd-owner of cattle). At the same time he is also creator and keeper of arms. Taking into consideration high level of sacralization of sphere connected with metal production it is possible to suppose that chariots was not only attributes of warriors but, even to a higher degree, attributes of metallurgists-masters, which were representatives of archaic «military-industrial complex» and «forged» victory, as well as an attribute of those persons who controlled production and exchange of metal. In several societies, especially in Sintashta society, funeral rite evidences comparatively «humble» place of a man in society. However, it can be explained with the help of at least two factors:

  • — vision of «ideal» organization of matrilocal society in which woman-mother, patroness of clan, is placed in center and a man is her companion, helper and defender;
  • — connected with matrilocality of clan developed religious cult of feminine deity, sacralization of a woman and granting to her attributes of sacred power. However those factors could exist only in ideological sphere and in real life men even if them did not control but owned and used property and riches determining all aspects of economic life and women-«matrons» were formal heads of communities. Presence of astragalus in tombs of adolescent boys and young men gives evidence on the connection with the basic type of economy and on status of master-shepherd.

Taking into consideration peculiarities of cattle-breeder economy of the Bronze Age it is interesting to mention characteristic feature connected with struggle of communities for pastures. Each community could have professional warriors-fighter which defended rights of their collective on pastures in ritual combat.

The main attributes of a woman were ornamentation on body and clothes, sets of bronze instruments and adult women were often interred with remains of sacrificed animals. Often enough a woman was placed in her tomb with a child. Therefore the basic social roles of women — mother, daughter, represented living link with ancestors (it was reflected in the fact that she wore ornamentation — family treasure of her clan). Taking into consideration division of rights and responsibilities as well as pastoral (in later era — seminomadic) economy character which forced men to leave settlement on regular basis women could be mistresses of houses, keeper of hearth and home. «Funeral rites for women were varied and this fact gives evidence that women could have in this society comparatively more levels or status types than men» [17; 247]. Such statuses were likely related to family-marital position. To them belonged adolescence, wedlock beginning (transition from her own clan to the clan of husband), maternity period (starting with birth of first child, perhaps, first-born son). Each of these statuses connected with certain set of ornamentations [18]. For the high social status of women in Sintashta and Andronovo societies speaks placement in women`s tombs symbols of power and often seen location of adult woman tomb (progenitress of family?) in the center of family sepulchers. In these societies men could be seen, because of certain historical peculiarities, as helpers, defenders and even servants of woman as in case, for example, of Sintashta. Statuses of women were more numerous and varied than statuses of men [17; 247].

Gender division was spread even on adolescent and children out of infancy. «Groups of adults and minors had similar types and levels of differentiation» [17; 248].

Statuses of infants were not marked with any special attributes. It can be explained by small significance of infant status because this era was characterized by high level of child mortality.

Therefore archaeological materials gives us right to say that the basis of all potestarian organization of the Kazakhstan societies in Bronze Age was clan institution, which fulfilled its functions within the framework of neighbor-clan community. Clan of the Kazakhstan tribes was not on the basis of blood-kinship but it was genealogical. Therefore the community division of this time is to be considered as neighbor-clan division. Family-marital relationships, at least during most part of the era, did not have patriarchal character but was defined by egalitarian and possibly by matriarchal forms of relationships.

The alternative for the community, existing in parallel with it, for the Bronze Age tribes could be professional clans — families unions, members of which were involved in specialized craft that is metallurgy. 



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Year: 2015
City: Karaganda
Category: History