Researching the History of Transhumance in Macedonia

June, 2011

How long have shepherds been driving their flocks up to the mountains to graze in the summer and down to lower elevations to graze in the winter? Opinions vary among archaeologists and historians. Did this practice start some 6000 years ago during the Neolithic? 2000 years ago during the Bronze Age? or later, after the development of complex state societies? A small start on an answer to this question took the form of an ethnoarchaeological landscape study of sheepfolds in two national parks in western Macedonia. Sheepfolds were mapped, their locations recorded and test excavations conducted in order to discover whether there is evidence for long-term use of these locations. Local shepherds were interviewed to find out how they view this occupation and what the functional requirements are for keeping sheep. The information collected will be combined with ethnographic studies from the Balkans and historical documents such as Ottoman censuses and legal cases in order to survey the practice of transhumance through time.