Chico State professor's work sheds new light on prehistoric people

Oct 28, 2014 3:29 PM by News Staff

A Chico State professor's work in Mongolia is shedding new light on prehistoric people.

Anthropology Professor Matthew O'Brien is currently part of a research team studying one of the few nomadic peoples left in the world; the reindeer-herding, Dukha of northern Mongolia.

The Duhka pack their belongings onto reindeer and move camp eight to 12 times per year. They live in cone lodges called "ortz," which resemble the teepees that were used by Native Americans.

O'Brien and his team are using photography and mapping to study the group's movement patterns and how they relate to human behavior, specifically human behavior when encountering new surroundings.

O'Brien has been studying the Dukha since 2012, when he spent six weeks in Mongolia learning the Dukha's language. The research team took photos of the reindeer herders every two minutes from a variety of angles.

Following the trip, the team used their data to produce videos and maps of the Dukha's behavior showing the distribution of individuals, dogs and livestock. The team also collected information on the groups genders, ages, activities and equipment.

The study of people in surroundings new to them is the first of its kind O'Brien said. "We'll study the Dukha and eventually we'd like to apply this to other groups in the world to see if their patterns are an anomaly or a generalized pattern of behavior."

By the summer of 2016 O'Brien and his team expect to have data on the Dukha's movement patterns in all four seasons.

O'Brien says the team's research is taking the guesswork out of what's been assumed for a long in archaeology.

(Photos and Information provided by CSU, Chico)

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