8. Diet Reconstruction of Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers in the Lake Baikal Region
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Diet Reconstruction of Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers in the Lake Baikal Region M. Anne Katzenberg, Vladimir I. Bazaliiskii, Olga I. Goriunova, Nikolai A. Savel’ev, and Andrzej W. Weber An understanding of human diet and subsistence practices is central to understanding past human adaptations. In East Siberia the potential food resources are limited by the climate and topography. There is a rich and varied aquatic fauna in the Lake Baikal region, particularly in the lake but also in the numerous rivers flowing in and the Angara River flowing out of Lake Baikal.PastreconstructionsofprehistoriclifeintheCis-Baikalregioninvoked different subsistence strategies focusing on either fish or terrestrial game (e.g., Okladnikov 1959b; Michael 1958; Weber, Link, and Katzenberg 2002). One of the major objectives of the Baikal Archaeology Project (BAP) is to better understand past diet and to determine whether diet and subsistence practices changed over time. If the Early Neolithic people were more reliant on fishing than the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age people, as is suggested by the large numbers of fishhooks associated with Early Neolithic graves, this would have implications for both subsistence activities and for diet. Knowledge of the species of fish exploited provides an insight into fishing technology and, perhaps, seasonal subsistence practices. If, as is suggested by genetic evidence (Mooder et al. 2006), Late Neolithic people migrated into the area from elsewhere, this might explain why their dietary adaptations were, at least initially, different from those of Early Neolithic people. If Late Neolithic people were new to the area, what foods did they exploit in their previous range and how quickly did they develop the technology to extract various food resources from Lake Baikal and the surrounding region? Were these new traditions carried on into the Bronze Age? For previously excavated sites where fine-screen recovery was not used, assumptions about subsistence and diet based on faunal analysis are biased by the ‹ 8 › 176 M. A. Katzenberg, V. I. Bazaliiskii, O. I. Goriunova, N. A. Savel’ev, and A. W. Weber failure to recover most fish bones and bones of other small animals. Collectively , hunter-gatherer subsistence studies of the past were biased by failure to consider the differential preservation of animal versus plant remains, and stone and bone tools versus bark and fiber tools in the archaeological record. Stable isotopeanalysisofpreservedbonecollagenprovidesinformationonhumandiet that, ideally, is combined with other sources of information, but, when those other sources are deficient, it provides information not otherwise available. Excavations focused on mortuary sites, where cultural items associated with mortuary customs are rich, but representative faunal assemblages were not expected in this context. Little is known about plant foods in the diet except through ethnographic analogy. Thus, it was desirable to undertake stable isotope analyses to better understand past dietary adaptations and potential variation in those adaptations across the region and over time. Beginning in the early 1990s, stable isotope analyses were carried out on samples of human bone from several prehistoric sites in the region (Lam 1994; Katzenberg and Weber 1999). Lam’s 1994 results on two cemetery samples suggested some variation in stable carbon isotope ratios, though the source of that variation was not known. Katzenberg and Weber’s 1999 study included additionalcemeterysamplesaswellasarangeofterrestrialandaquaticanimalbones and, thus, provided the explanation for the stable carbon isotope variation observed by Lam, which arises from certain species of fish from Lake Baikal. A key strategy in using stable isotopes to reveal past human diet is the thorough stable isotope analysis of animal species and plants, when possible, that might have contributed to past diets. The results of such studies provide the potential as well as the limitations for making specific statements about past diet. For example, since fish from Lake Baikal exhibit a wide range of stable carbon isotope ratios, it is possible to make dietary statements about the presence or absence of some species, but not about all fish. This chapter provides information on current approaches to the study of diet and subsistence over time in Cis-Baikal. Stable isotope data from humans , terrestrial fauna, and aquatic fauna are presented as an aid to better understanding dietary adaptations. In the context of the other chapters in this book, these data should provide a major piece of the puzzle for reconstructing diet among the past peoples of the region. Understanding diet and subsistence also has implications for understanding health and disease since different subsistence strategies place people in contact with different pathogens . Narrowing the range of possible foods has implications for developing hypotheses about subsistence technology, particularly technology...


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Subject Headings

  • Human remains (Archaeology) -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Burial -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Baikal, Lake, Region (Russia) -- Antiquities.
  • Neolithic period -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Hunting and gathering societies -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
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