SOYCE: Studies on Hadramawt Antropology and Ethnography


Hadramawt is the largest province of Yemen, and since 1982 historical cultural, archaeological, anthropological and linguistic ethnographic research has been conducted here by a comprehensive expedition from the Russian Academy of Sciences (until 1991 the Soviet Yemen Complex Expedition of the USSR Academy of Sciences, or SOYCE).

In quarter of a century of field research, Petersburg scholars have gathered wide and diverse ethnographic material, reflected in numerous publications. Besides M. Rodionov, at various times the Hadramawt linguistic ethnographic group was made up of architect Yu. F. Kozhin, ethnographer P. I. Pogorelsky, linguist O. I. Redkin, “the Yemeni Petersburger” ‘Abd al ‘Aziz Bin ‘Aqil and Moscow sociologist S. N. Serebrov. Against a wide cultural and historical background, traditional activities are examined — agriculture and irrigation, bee keeping, hunting, wood processing, pottery, platting, weaving, smithery, jewellery production, and treatment of leather. The features of local architecture, clothing, food and folk medicine were studied. Local poetic folklore was gathered, and study was made of religious rituals, oral and written tradition, old documents and manuscripts. Methods were developed for taking surveys and recording field data, including audio visual methods. This work is especially important, as many features of traditional culture are becoming a thing of the past or changing.

The work was conducted in constant contact with the historical cultural (M. B. Piotrovsky, A. G. Lundin, G. M. Bauer, A. D. Knysh et al.) and archaeological sections of SOYCE (A. V. Sedov, Kh. A. Amirkhanov, Yu. A. Vinogradov et al.)

The south of the Arabian Peninsula is a zone of interaction of different peoples and cultures of Southwest Asia and East Africa. Owing to a number of historical reasons, it is quite probable that this territory was connected by migration processes with a much larger region, including North Africa, West Asia, and also several regions of South and Southeast Asia. In this sense, it is crucial for understanding the problem of the formation of human races.

Anthropological material began to be gathered from the very first field season of SOYCE. In 1983—1985, expedition members V. S. Shinkarenko and V. V. Naumkin conducted a medical and anthropological examination of the population of Soqotra Island, and also conducted excavations of a number of cave burial grounds, where the first paleoanthropological material was received.

From 1986, collection of anthropological material in South Yemen was entrusted to employees of the Department of Anthropology at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. During the first expedition, Yu. K. Chistov took part in excavation of the necropolis Raybun and examined obtained osteological materials.

From 1987 to 1990, work was conducted on an anthropological examination of the modern population of South Yemen. This was carried out by the SOYCE anthropological team (I. I. Gokhman, V. I. Bogdanova, Yu. K. Chistov). In 1989, the director of the Institute of Archaeology of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Academician V. P. Alexeev, also took part in this work.

The main place of work for the SOYCE anthropology team, as for the entire expedition, was the province of Hadramawt. Work was also conducted in towns in all the other provinces of South Yemen and on Soqotra Island.

In no other country in the Middle East (or in other neighbouring regions, with the possible exception of Hindustan) has such representative material on the anthropology of the modern population been gathered.