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Mount Vernon Native Brings Nomadic Research to Falls Church

Todd Surovell will bring his research on nomads near the Siberian border to Northern Virginia on Saturday.

Understanding the behaviors of past beings and present ones is what drives archeologist Todd Surovell.

Since July, the Mount Vernon native has followed the Dukha nomadic reindeer herders of the Khövsgöl Province of Mongolia near the Siberian border, documenting their daily activities through pictures and notes. Saturday, Surovell will share months of research with people at the James Lee Community Center in Falls Church.

“I wanted to study human behavior in a nomadic context in a tempered environment,” Surovell said Thursday during a telephone interview. “Not a lot of nomadic people exist in the world today. I ended up going to Mongolia because I had some colleagues that had worked there and had some contacts there.”

Surovell, interim director of the George C. Frison Institute Department of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming, has accumulated more than 5,300 photos since July. He and his colleagues used time-lapse photography and photogrammetry to map the spatial distribution of genders, ages, activities and equipment in exterior spaces. Surovell said he will return to Mongolia in August and expects to finish his research within the next two years.

It’s not the flight that the most tiring part of his travels to Mongolia to follow the Dukha nomadic reindeer herders. It’s the 600 miles he has to travel by vehicle through rough terrain on the ground followed by another 20 miles by horseback to finally reach his destination. Once there, he sleeps on the ground in tents for the entire time he is there completing his research.

“Mongolia is kind of a rugged place,” he said. “It’s kind of tough but it’s rewarding.”

Surovell will present “Mapping People in their Living Space: The Dukha Ethnoarchaeological Project in Mongolia,” at 10 a.m. at the James Lee Community Center on Saturday.


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