Wandering Trails: Exploring Mobility and Sedentism in the Archaeological Record

Sutonuka Bhattacharya1, 2, Prachi Joshi2

1Department of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

2Sharma Centre for Heritage Education

Concepts of ‘mobility’ and ‘sedentism’ as approached in archaeology, have been widely debated, with a growing appreciation of their multidimensionality and of the complexity of spatial organisation of behaviour that can exist among human populations. Debates on these concepts are situated within the context of spatial organisation related to resource procurement, risk-cost equilibrium, social organisation, territoriality, seasonal or environmental pressures, among other issues. These issues have been addressed in archaeological discourse, either implicitly or explicitly, often without considering the nature of the archaeological record and scales of observation and interpretation. In prehistoric archaeology, these debates cross-cut chronological boundaries, ranging from approaches adopted for hunter-gatherer communities to those proposed for early farmers and pastoral groups. Here, we seek to open a discussion regarding diverse theoretical and methodological approaches towards addressing issues related to the multiple dimensions of sedentism and mobility in prehistory. We focus on aspects of hunter-gatherer and agropastoral communities, both past and present, weaving together aspects of the archaeological and ethnographic records. We encourage debates on theoretical perspectives, application of new methodologies and cultural perceptions on the meaning of space. We seek to contribute to debates by encouraging new perspectives from regions that have seen lower degrees of appreciation of the importance of developing strong theoretical foundations as related to these concepts. We hope that these discussions help us better understand variability in different kinds of movement from the smallest unit of the individual to the larger global issues of population dispersals.