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Re-evaluating Scythian lifeways: Isotopic analysis of diet and mobility in Iron Age Ukraine

Ventresca Miller, Alicia R. and Johnson, James and Makhortykh, Sergey and Gerling, Claudia and Litvinova, Ludmilla and Andrukh, Svetlana and Toschev, Gennady and Zech, Jana and le Roux, Petrus and Makarewicz, Cheryl and Boivin, Nicole and Roberts, Patrick. (2021) Re-evaluating Scythian lifeways: Isotopic analysis of diet and mobility in Iron Age Ukraine. PLoS ONE, 16 (3). e0245996.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/82420/

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Abstract

The Scythians are frequently presented, in popular and academic thought alike, as highly mobile warrior nomads who posed a great economic risk to growing Mediterranean empires from the Iron Age into the Classical period. Archaeological studies provide evidence of first millennium BCE urbanism in the steppe while historical texts reference steppe agriculture, challenging traditional characterizations of Scythians as nomads. However, there have been few direct studies of the diet and mobility of populations living in the Pontic steppe and forest-steppe during the Scythian era. Here, we analyse strontium, oxygen, and carbon isotope data from human tooth enamel samples, as well as nitrogen and carbon isotope data of bone collagen, at several Iron Age sites across Ukraine commonly associated with 'Scythian' era communities. Our multi-isotopic approach demonstrates generally low levels of human mobility in the vicinity of urban locales, where populations engaged in agro-pastoralism focused primarily on millet agriculture. Some individuals show evidence for long-distance mobility, likely associated with significant inter-regional connections. We argue that this pattern supports economic diversity of urban locales and complex trading networks, rather than a homogeneous nomadic population.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Integrative Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie (IPNA)
UniBasel Contributors:Gerling, Claudia
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Public Library of Science
e-ISSN:1932-6203
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:23 Mar 2021 10:17
Deposited On:23 Mar 2021 10:17

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