Meat or Grains: Compound Specific Carbon Isotope Analysis along the Northern Edge of the Tibetan Plateau

Author(s): Rachel Reid; Xinyi Liu

Year: 2018


Various foothills, oases and valleys along the north edge of the Tibetan Plateau played important roles in the process of food globalization in prehistory. These are the key corridors that brought southwest Asian animals along with the western grains into China and Chinese cereals to the West. Recent research demonstrates that broomcorn and foxtail millet (both C4 plants) were the key staple food in this region during the third and second millennium BC, but it remains unclear to what degree humans also relied on animal protein. Here we closely examine the dietary importance of grains and meat at several sites in western China from this period. We compare previous bulk collagen stable isotope results with compound specific carbon isotope analyses of individual amino acids extracted from human and animal bone collagen. Because essential and non-essential amino acids reflect different components of diet, compound specific carbon isotope analysis offers a means to isotopically distinguish between protein and non-protein dietary components, making it possible to determine to what degree humans were consuming meat directly versus consuming animals that were fed millet. Preliminary results for humans from Huoshaogou corroborate previous Bayesian mixing model estimates by suggesting that humans were consuming millet directly.

Cite this Record

Meat or Grains: Compound Specific Carbon Isotope Analysis along the Northern Edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Rachel Reid, Xinyi Liu. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 445372)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 70.4; min lat: 17.141 ; max long: 146.514; max lat: 53.956 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22346