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Stable Isotope Analysis: Outline of Methodology, and a Review of Studies in Siberia and the Eurasian Steppe

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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis is one of the main techniques for assessing various aspects of life of the prehistoric populations including diet and economy. Here, we present the theoretical background of the method, and review the major stable isotope paleodietary studies relating to the Eurasian steppe and available by the end of 2013. Existing data show that the diet of various Chalcolithic to Early Iron Age populations in the region varied in time and space and included substantial amounts of fi sh. Variations in diet and economy between groups associated with the same archaeological culture were likely caused by adaptations to local environments and climates. Millet appeared in the area (in the Minusinsk Basin) only in the 14th century BC. The Minusinsk Basin thereby became one of the fi rst centres of millet cultivation in Siberia. The impact of climate, specifi cally precipitation, on the isotopic values of human bone tissue has also been recorded. Although studies of ancient Siberian and Eurasian steppe groups are numerous, paleodietary research using stable isotope analysis is still at the data acquisition stage. One of the main criteria of modern research in the region is a systematic and well-designed approach to the isotopic analysis of various archaeological populations. This analysis must include not only human bone samples, but also those relating to all potential dietary components such as terrestrial and aquatic animals as well as samples of associated plants.

About the Author

S. V. Svyatko
14CHRONO Centre for Climate, the Environment, and Chronology, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Russian Federation


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For citations:

Svyatko S.V. Stable Isotope Analysis: Outline of Methodology, and a Review of Studies in Siberia and the Eurasian Steppe. Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia. 2016;44(2):47-55.

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