ISOTOPES TELL THE STORY OF DIETS OF OLD

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MOSCOW, October 28 (RIA Novosti) - Isotope research done by Russian and Italian scientists gives an idea of diets of primitive people in Northern Eurasia, the magazine Nauka i Zhizn (Science and Life) writes. Carbon and nitrogen isotope composition can provide unique information on the source of proteins in food. For instance, the isotope method has determined during what epochs the growing of millet, wheat, barley was the basis of agriculture in Russia's Far Eastern region. The isotope oxygen composition in bone remains makes it possible to judge what the sources of water were.

It has been established that steppe tribes living in the territory of the Stavropol region (southern Russia) over the last four thousand years were nomadic or half-nomadic and, depending on the season, moved from the Caucasus foothills to the north, Kalmyk steppes, where plants and hence the meat of herbivorous animals, which was their food, differ in the isotope carbon composition.

Unlike nomads, people inhabiting the environs of present-day Moscow 8,500 to 5,000 years ago lived a sedentary life. Results of isotope research confirm the conclusions drawn from chemical and other studies: their diet was mostly river fish.

A comparative study of oxygen isotopes in bones shows that people and domestic animals drank water from different sources: people of those times, just as today, preferred running water from rivulets or springs; livestock may have used small water pools.

Interesting results have been received from the study of burial-mounds (4th-2nd centuries before Christ) in the Orenburg region. Here, on the border of Europe and Asia, the routes of ancient tribes intersected. In the 4th century before Christ, in the entire territory of the Southern Cisuralia the make-up of the nomadic population underwent great changes. Archaeologists were not unanimous where the settlers came from.

The isotope oxygen composition from bones found in the burials in SouthernCisuralia has shown that those folks were not indigenous but came there not long before their death (the isotope composition reflects the environmental conditions during the last ten years of life). The nearest place of their long-time habitation is supposed to be the southern part of West Siberia (1,000 to 1,500 kilometres east-north-east).

The dietary customs tell on the development of body. They are entirely different between people inhabiting different natural zones - the tundra, taiga, steppe, mainland of continents, coast land. Modern science is interested to know what particular biological specifics of the ancient people depended on the food factor and through what physiological, demographic and other mechanisms this influence told.

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