Wilkin (2020) Pastoralism sustained eastern Eurasian steppe populations

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    • #27631
      Carlos Quiles
      Keymaster

      Wilkin, S., Ventresca Miller, A., Taylor, W.T.T. et al. Dairy pastoralism sustained eastern Eurasian steppe populations for 5,000 years. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 346–355 (2020).https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1120-y

      Abstract:

      Dairy pastoralism is integral to contemporary and past lifeways on the eastern Eurasian steppe, facilitating survival in agriculturally challenging environments. While previous research has indicated that ruminant dairy pastoralism was practiced in the region by circa 1300 BC, the origin, extent and diversity of this custom remain poorly understood. Here, we analyse ancient proteins from human dental calculus recovered from geographically diverse locations across Mongolia and spanning 5,000 years. We present the earliest evidence for dairy consumption on the eastern Eurasian steppe by circa 3000 BC and the later emergence of horse milking at circa 1200 BC, concurrent with the first evidence for horse riding. We argue that ruminant dairying contributed to the demographic success of Bronze Age Mongolian populations and that the origins of traditional horse dairy products in eastern Eurasia are closely tied to the regional emergence of mounted herding societies during the late second millennium BC.

    • #27634
      Carlos Quiles
      Keymaster

      Wilkin, S., Ventresca Miller, A., Miller, B.K. et al. Economic Diversification Supported the Growth of Mongolia’s Nomadic Empires. Sci Rep 10, 3916 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-60194-0

      Abstract:

      Populations in Mongolia from the late second millennium B.C.E. through the Mongol Empire are traditionally assumed, by archaeologists and historians, to have maintained a highly specialized horse-facilitated form of mobile pastoralism. Until recently, a dearth of direct evidence for prehistoric human diet and subsistence economies in Mongolia has rendered systematic testing of this view impossible. Here, we present stable carbon and nitrogen isotope measurements of human bone collagen, and stable carbon isotope analysis of human enamel bioapatite, from 137 well-dated ancient Mongolian individuals spanning the period c. 4400 B.C.E. to 1300 C.E. Our results demonstrate an increase in consumption of C4 plants beginning at c. 800 B.C.E., almost certainly indicative of millet consumption, an interpretation supported by archaeological evidence. The escalating scale of millet consumption on the eastern Eurasian steppe over time, and an expansion of isotopic niche widths, indicate that historic Mongolian empires were supported by a diversification of economic strategies rather than uniform, specialized pastoralism.

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