Main content area

Plant food subsistence in the human diet of the Bronze Age Caspian and Low Don steppe pastoralists: archaeobotanical, isotope and 14C data

Shishlina, N. I., Bobrov, A. A., Simakova, A. M., Troshina, A. A., Sevastyanov, V. S., van der Plicht, J.
Vegetation history and archaeobotany 2018 v.27 no.6 pp. 833-842
Poaceae, archaeobotany, barley, carbon, economic systems, human nutrition, indigenous peoples, isotopes, pastoralism, phytoliths, pollen, pollen analysis, seeds, spikelets, stems, steppes, Caucasus region
The paper presents the result of analysis of charred food on the interior part of the vessels from the graves of the East Manych and West Manych Catacomb archaeological cultures (2500–2350 cal BC). The phytolith and pollen analyses identified pollen of wild steppe plants and phytoliths of domesticated gramineous plants determined as barley phytoliths. Direct ¹⁴С dating of one of the samples demonstrates that barley spikelets and stems were used in funeral rites by local steppe communities. However, there are no data suggesting that steppe inhabitants of the Lower Don Region were engaged in agriculture in the mid-3000 BC. Supposedly, barley could have reached the steppes through seasonal migrations of mobile pastoralists to the south, use of North Caucasus grasslands in the economic system of seasonal moves and exchange with local people. Nevertheless, presence of carbonized barley seeds in the occupation layers at North Caucasus settlements of 4000–3000 BC requires confirmation by direct ¹⁴С dating of such samples.