Katya TURCHIN

UCL, RESEARCH ASSISTANT

I am just starting an MA in the archaeology and heritage of Asia, with a focus on Central Asia and am excited to study past peoples’ use of plants in food, rituals, and medicine, and the ways in which this often folkloric knowledge is shared. Having been interested in archaeology since the age of 13, I became drawn to the study of food because it is one of the most quintessential aspects of culture. The nuances of food culture reflect our social ties, customs, individual tastes, and accumulated history (and is delicious)! I became interested in plants because they are used both as food and medicine in everyday and ritual contexts while also comprising our environment. It is fascinating to explore how different groups define these categories and assign value to various plants, and how such customs are transmitted along with the plants themselves.


Naturally, Central Asia fascinates me as a region crisscrossed by trade routes connecting numerous cultures and peoples, and enabling the spread of fruits, herbs, and spices. By translating Soviet excavation reports from Merv, Turkmenistan, I have become quite captivated by the extent of this multi-layered metropolis. One of the sections of Merv that has been most interesting is the Parthian artisan workshop at the BCE site of Gyaur Kala which contains remains of craft production, ranging from casting metal objects to working bone, making goddess figurines, even minting coins! The objects in the workshop showcase the diversity of artisanal production in the city, a millennium before it became a medieval cosmopolitan capital. For the CAAL project I am involved with spreadsheets related to the database and Central Asian monuments passports as well as confirming coordinates for more precise locations.

I love hiking and wandering around; one of my favourite things to do when travelling is to just walk around and take in the sights and atmosphere of a new place (while tasting new foods). I also like playing chess and cooking!

%d bloggers like this: