The movement of shepherds and animals to the eastern steppe is of great interest to researchers, but few scholars have linked the introduction of herds and horses to the emergence of complex societies.
Now a new study in the journal PLOS ONE provides interdisciplinary support for the link between animal husbandry and the growth of social complexity in the eastern steppe. Using proteomic analysis of human tartar from places in the Mongolian Altai, researchers demonstrate a shift in dairy consumption during the Bronze Age.
By tracking the consumption of dairy products among the population in the Altai Mountains in Mongolia, researchers have found the important role of domesticated sheep, goats and cattle in ancient farms. The adoption of ruminants eventually led to population growth, the creation of public cemeteries and the construction of large monuments. While these pronounced changes occurred in tandem with the earliest evidence of horse milk in Mongolia, horse milk consumption remained a relatively new practice until later periods.
Thus, the spread of herds in the Mongolian Altai has led to immediate changes in the human diet with delayed subsequent social and demographic transformations, said lead author Alicia Ventresca Miller, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan.
“As we postpone the introduction of animal husbandry, we need to rethink the pace of social change that could occur in the much longer term,” she said.
Ventresca Miller and colleagues from UM and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Human History in Germany extracted proteins from computational samples to identify casein and whey associated with ruminants and horse milk. The results were interpreted in consultation with researchers from the National University of Mongolia and the National Museum of Mongolia to explain how ancient societies changed after adopting a pet.
Drastic social changes and monumental constructions have been fueled by long-term dependence on sheep, goats and cattle, says Ventresca Miller. This is confirmed by the findings of mostly ruminant bones in large monumental Kyrgyz in the Altai Mountains, while in other parts of Mongolia along with ruminants were found deposits of horse bones.
“These new results could change our understanding of the dynamics of the Bronze Age,” said Tsagaan Turbat, a professor of archeology and anthropology at Mongolia’s National University.
Turbat believes that the most studied in the region reindeer stone complexes-Khirgisuur, may have originated from the Saxon groups in the Altai Mountains.
The current study postpones the earliest date for the cultivation of horse milk in the eastern steppe, associated with the burials of Sagsai, around 1350 BC. Because initial evidence of horse milk consumption is rare, it may have been a novelty because horses were an important feature of ritual life, researchers say.
Source of history: