Modeling Bronze Age Isoscapes in the Eurasian steppe: Identifying subtle variation in pastoral diet and mobility

Author(s): Alicia Ventresca Miller

Year: 2015


Isotopic investigations of ancient materials often lack the robust isotopic baselines necessary for comparative analyses. A paucity of isotopic data for baseline ecology creates gaps in our knowledge and allows for multiple interpretations of prehistoric practices. This is especially true for the Eurasian steppe, where isotopic values have been used to consider long-distance human migrations without sufficient baselines. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to use an innovative approach in ecological modeling to create comprehensive isotopic reference maps, or isoscapes, for two local zones. Isoscapes model patterned variation in isotopic ratios of landscapes by linking environmental variables through predictive modeling. To create isoscapes, comparative baselines were built using δ18O, δ13C and δ15N ratios of modern biosphere samples for two archaeological sites in northern Kazakhstan. These included spot testing of modern water, plant, and animal samples in a 15km zone surrounding each site. Isoscapes were used to link modern environmental variables with isotopic change which was then compared with isotopic ratios of prehistoric animal and human samples to investigate subsistence and mobility practices. Through the compilation of robust ecological data can we identify subtle variation in pastoral lifeways; particularly subsistence practices, herding strategies, and movement within the landscape.

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Modeling Bronze Age Isoscapes in the Eurasian steppe: Identifying subtle variation in pastoral diet and mobility. Alicia Ventresca Miller. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397106)