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Carbon and oxygen stable isotopic evidence for diverse sheep and goat husbandry strategies amid a Final Bronze Age farming milieu in the Kyrgyz Tian Shan

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Hermes,  Taylor
Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Schmid,  Clemens
Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Hermes, T., Schmid, C., Tabaldiev, K., & Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, G. (2022). Carbon and oxygen stable isotopic evidence for diverse sheep and goat husbandry strategies amid a Final Bronze Age farming milieu in the Kyrgyz Tian Shan. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 3103. doi:10.1002/oa.3103.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-3962-8
Abstract
Abstract The mountains of Central Asia during the Bronze and Iron Ages are increasingly being reconceived as an important zone for intensive crop cultivation in combination with pastoralist herding. However, very little information is known about how farming practices intersected with livestock husbandry, especially at high-elevation sites. This paper presents the first insights to ancient animal management strategies in the Tian Shan through incremental carbon and oxygen stable isotope analysis of domesticated caprine teeth recovered from the Chap-1 farmstead located at 2000?m.a.s.l. in Kyrgyzstan (1065 to 825?cal?BCE). We implemented a fully reproducible analysis of time-series isotope data in the R programming language. Results show subtle but variable manipulation of domesticated caprine diets at subannual scales, suggesting mixed strategies of providing access to a small amount of C4 plant biomass, in addition to summer movements to high pastures where the overall carbon isotopic composition of graze was depleted in 13C compared with that of the environs of the site or lowland pastures. Nevertheless, caprine dietary intake was overwhelmingly dominated by C3 plants. Analysis of domesticated caprine birth seasonality reveals off-season fall and winter births, which represent a common strategy employed by ancient producers in Central Asia to improve herd security and extend meat and milk availability. This study illustrates a well-integrated system of agro-pastoralist production that can help clarify the social dynamics underlying food systems in the mountain regions of Central and Inner Asia in the Final Bronze Age. It further reveals the capability for more sedentary agro-pastoralist communities to facilitate wider interregional cultural connections, through limited seasonal herding mobility and investment in highland settlement.