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Foodways on the Han dynasty’s western frontier: archeobotanical and isotopic investigations at Shichengzi, Xinjiang, China

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Storozum,  Michael
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Sheng, P., Storozum, M., Tian, X., & Wu, Y. (2020). Foodways on the Han dynasty’s western frontier: archeobotanical and isotopic investigations at Shichengzi, Xinjiang, China. The Holocene, 30(8): 0959683620913916, pp. 1174-1185. doi:10.1177/0959683620913916.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-508A-4
Abstract
Recent archeobotanical work has shed light on prehistoric food globalization across the Eurasian landmass; however, much less research has focused on the foodways of the historical cities and settlements found throughout Central Asia on various portions of the ?Silk Road?. Here, we present archeobotanical and isotopic results from recent excavations at Shichengzi, a Han dynasty (202 BC?AD 220) military garrison. Our archeobotanical results recovered from 11 samples reveal that four types of cereals, naked barley, wheat, common millet, and foxtail millet, were the most common crops at the site. Naked barley, a drought and cold resistant crop, comprised 79% of the crop assemblage recovered from Shichengzi, and the rest of the assemblage is composed of wheat and millet. The reliance on drought resistant crops indicates that people at Shichengzi oriented their agricultural strategy toward mitigating environmental risks. In addition, our isotopic analyses (δ13C and δ15N) of charred cereal grains (n = 22), animal and human remains (n = 12) recovered from excavations at Shichengzi suggests that the δ15N values of cereals were enriched by human or livestock dung. Moreover, the δ13C data from Shichengzi suggest that farmers preferentially planted their crops in wide areas that would have received the highest amounts of water available on the northern piedmont of the Tianshan mountains. Our research contributes to the growing understanding of the diversity of agricultural strategies used along the Silk Road.