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Subsistence and the isotopic signature of herding in the Bronze Age Hexi Corridor, NW Gansu, China

Atahan, P.; Dodson, J.; Li, X.Q.; Zhou, X.Y.; Hu, S.M.; Bertuch, F.; Sun, N.

Journal of Archaeological Science 38(7): 1747-1753

2011


ISSN/ISBN: 0305-4403
DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2011.03.006
Accession: 066245758

Dietary patterns at two Bronze Age sites in the Hexi Corridor are investigated by the analysis of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in faunal bone collagen. The findings are compared with archaeobotanical remains from one of the sites which include high proportions of millet (Panicum miliaceum and Setaria italica) as well as the western derived cereals wheat (Triticum aestivum), barley (Hordeum vulgare) and oat (Avena sativa). The isotopic data indicate domestic omnivores (Canis and Sus) had diets dominated by millet. Minimally offset delta(15)N values between herbivore and omnivore fauna suggest low consumption of animal protein by omnivores. Diets of herded animal (Bos and Caprinae) included only low proportions of C4 foods, suggesting that these animals were not regularly foddered with millet plants, and that their grazing areas were mostly beyond the agricultural zone. The wide range in delta(15)N values amongst herbivore fauna (4.1 parts per thousand-11.8 parts per thousand) suggests grazing occurred in a variety of ecological zones, and this would be consistent with the occurrence of long-distance transport of livestock in the region.

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