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Stable Isotopic Insights into Changing Diets, Population Mobility and the Origins of Pastoral Nomadism in Early Bronze Age Mongolia

Author(s): Christine France ; Damien Huffer ; Michelle Machicek ; Bruno Frohlich

Year: 2015

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This paper presents human and faunal bone, dentine and enamel stable isotopic data from a small (n=30) Bronze Age skeletal assemblage excavated from a large burial mound (khirigsuur) complex (n=2000) located in northwest Mongolia (c. 3,500-2,700 BP). Covering 900 sq. km and spanning 600 years, osteological and mortuary data suggest no strict correlations occurred between individual age and sex estimates, and the size or form of burial mound, suggesting instead that khirigsuur variation signifies nascent social stratification over time. With numerous human bone AMS dates at hand, we examine if increased enrichment of nitrogen and depletion of carbon over time reflects the increased consumption of specific plants and terrestrial protein by certain individuals (of either sex), suggestive of nascent inequality amongst so-called egalitarian nomads. Furthermore, we query whether or not temporal variation in strontium and oxygen values reflects at least low-level exogamy during the Early Bronze Age, and how extra-local origin may or may not be reflected in mortuary treatment. This data adds to previous research conducted in 2007, allowing further assessment of how social organization changed over time, and add anthropological context to studies of early pastoral nomadism within the mixed C3/C4 steppe biome.

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Stable Isotopic Insights into Changing Diets, Population Mobility and the Origins of Pastoral Nomadism in Early Bronze Age Mongolia. Damien Huffer, Christine France, Bruno Frohlich, Michelle Machicek. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397101)


Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America