A comprehensive investigation of Bronze Age human dietary strategies from different altitudinal environments in the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor


The early presence of crops from East Asia and Southwest Asia in the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor (IAMC) has drawn attention to the Bronze Age mountain archaeology of Central Asia. Namely, the Bronze Age diffusion and utilization of grains in this region remains unknown as contrasts and extremes characterize the territory in environmental terms, especially elevation. Researchers continue to reflect on how, during the second millennium BC, Bronze Age populations used new crops and local animal resources to adapt to different elevation environments of the IAMC. In this study, we analyzed the 41 latest stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic results from human and faunal bones from six Bronze Age sites in the IAMC, 261 previously published stable isotopic datasets, and 12 archaeobotanical and four zooarchaeological results to investigate the dietary strategies of populations from different elevation environments in the Bronze Age IAMC. The results show an altitudinal gradient in dietary choices among Bronze Age populations in the IAMC, with mixed C-4 and C-3 consumption at the low-mid elevations and notable C-3 consumption at the high elevations. Archaeobotanical and faunal remains also support these isotopic results. Our study further highlights that the differentiated dietary strategies adopted by the Bronze Age population in IAMC may have been the product of adaptation to local geographic environments. Social interaction may have also played a role in certain types of special dietary consumption.



Bronze age, Inner Asian Mountain Corridor, Altitudinal adaptation, Stable isotopes, Macroplant remains, Faunal remains