Moscow University

System of nutrition of the Scythian time Middle-Don population: economy and climate (according to the composition of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes)

Chagarov O.S., Dobrovolskaya M.V.

Institute Archaeology Russian Academy of Sciences, Dm. Ulyanova 19, Moscow, 117036, Russia

Chagarov Ongar Salikhovich, с; Dobrovol’skaya Mariya Vsevolodovna, PhD, D.Sci., ORCID ID 0000-0001-9695-4199;


Introduction. Isotopic analysis of bone collagen is a reliable tool to assess diet and economy type of ancient societies. Data on carbon and nitrogen isotopic ratio are used to estimate the proportion of protein and carbohydrates and to indicate the water component of the diet. The main goal of our study is to reconstruct food models of Scythian time and to assess the variability of the food traditions and habitats of the paleopopulation from the burial mounds and ground burial sites of Middle Don. Materials and methods. It total, 81 bone collagen samples were analyzed, 5 from kurgan cemeteries and 2 from ground burial sites of 5th-4th centuries BC of Middle-Upper Don region. Stable isotopes ratio was identified at the Center for Collective Use Mass Spectrometric Studies of the Collective Scientific Center (isotope analysis) of the Institute of Ecology and Evolution named after A.N. Severtsov RAN. Identification of carbon and nitrogen isotopic composition was made on a Thermo-Finnigan Delta V Plus IRMS mass spectrometer with an elemental analyzer (Thermo Flash 1112). Results. Δ13C and Δ 15N values for individuals from kurgans are in the range from -21 to -12 ‰ (carbon) and from 10 to 13 ‰ (nitrogen). Delta values (Δ 13C and Δ 15N) for samples from ground graves are from -20 to -14 ‰ and from 10 to 12 ‰, respectively. Higher values of delta nitrogen are more typical for individuals from burial mounds. Discussion. For the first time, reliable data of bone collagen isotopic composition were estimated, and the food patterns were reconstructed for the nomads of the Early Iron Age forest-steppe of Eastern Europe. Data obtained made it possible to make a hypothesis about the differences in the economy of the «kurgan humans» and population from ground burials. High variability of carbon and nitrogen isotopic ratio in human bone collagen samples from burial mounds is also noted. Different sources of millet and high mobility of nomads are considered as possible causes of this variability.


palaeoanthropology; Early Iron age; isotopic analysis; Middle Don; burial mounds and ground graves; paleodiet reconstruction

DOI: 10.32521/2074-8132.2019.2.072-083

Цит.: Chagarov O.S., Dobrovolskaya M.V. System of nutrition of the Scythian time Middle-Don population: economy and climate (according to the composition of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes) // Moscow University Anthropology Bulletin (Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta. Seria XXIII. Antropologia), 2019; 2/2019; с. 72-83

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