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Crops vs. animals: Regional differences in subsistence strategies of Swiss Neolithic farmers revealed by stable isotopes

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Krause,  Johannes
MHAAM, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;
Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Siebke, I., Furtwängler, A., Steuri, N., Hafner, A., Ramstein, M., Krause, J., et al. (2020). Crops vs. animals: Regional differences in subsistence strategies of Swiss Neolithic farmers revealed by stable isotopes. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 12(10): 235. doi:10.1007/s12520-020-01122-1.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-A2FD-5
Abstract
The Neolithic period is archaeologically well documented in Central Europe, and several studies considered dietary habits and migration patterns. However, even though Switzerland and the alpine region are well known for Neolithic cultures, most of today’s knowledge about the population comes from organic materials such as wood, faunal, or botanic remains and not from the human remains themselves. This comprehensive study presents dietary reconstructions from stable isotope data (δ13C, δ15N, δ34S) of humans (n = 88) and fauna (n = 60) dating to the Neolithic from 21 sites that cluster in three main Swiss regions (Jura, Midland, Eastern Switzerland). The general data show a terrestrial C3 plant–based diet, and the δ15N values indicate regional differences between the groups, while males and females consumed similar proportions of animal proteins. It is assumed that freshwater fish was part of the diet at least in some regions. The data indicate that different subsistence strategies were practiced (animal husbandry/pastoralism vs. agriculture) possibly in relation to cultural influences. The δ34S values suggest some mobility in general, while indications for patrilocal societies are seen as females exhibit greater δ34S ranges. Overall, we conclude that most likely different subsistence strategies were practised, while no social stratigraphy based on nutritional access could be observed for the studied populations.