Bronze Age population increased thanks to livestock

Livestock and dairy farming were key to population growth and early symbols of civilization on the Eurasian steppe during the Bronze Age, according to new research.

A new study by Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History reveals that the adoption of ruminant livestock ultimately led to population growth, the creation of community cemeteries and the construction of major monuments.

Using proteomic analysis of human tartar from sites in the Mongolian Altai, the researchers demonstrate a shift in dairy consumption over the Bronze Age, a historical period from about 3,300 BC to 1,200 BC.

Horses and Gers at Lake Khoton (Syrgal) near the Altai Mountains in Mongolia.
Nooost Bayarkhuu, University of Science and Technology of China/Zenger

The Altai Mountains are a mountain range in Central and East Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan converge.

The study provides interdisciplinary support for links between livestock farming and the emergence of social complexity in the eastern steppe.

The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History announced: “The movement of herders and livestock to the eastern steppe is of great interest to researchers.

“However, few scientists have linked the introduction of herds and horses to the emergence of complex societies.”

By tracking dairy consumption among the population in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains, the research group at the Jena-based institute revealed the critical role of domestic sheep, goats and cattle in ancient economies.

Sagsai burial from the site of Tsagaan Asga
Sagsai burial of the site of Tsagaan Asga in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia.
Nooost Bayarkhuu, University of Science and Technology of China/Zenger

dr. Alicia Ventresca Miller is a bioarchaeologist in the Department of Archeology at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and author of the study.

She said: “As we push back dates of livestock introductions, we need to rethink the pace of social change, which can take place over much longer timeframes.”

Miller, also an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, explained that she and her colleagues at the University of Michigan and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History had extracted proteins from calculus samples to produce casein and whey associated with ruminants. identification and horse dairy.

The results were interpreted in consultation with researchers from the National University of Mongolia and the National Museum of Mongolia, in an effort to clarify how ancient societies changed after the adoption of domesticated livestock.

Miller added: “Dramatic social changes and monumental constructions were fueled by a long-term reliance on sheep, goats and cattle.

“This is supported by finds of mostly ruminant bones in large monumental Khirgisuurs in the Altai Mountains, while deposits of horse bone and ruminant have been identified in other parts of Mongolia.”

Sheep herder in Mongolia
A shepherd faces another snow storm and walks sheep and goats on March 14, 2010 in Sergelen, Tuv province of Mongolia.
Paula Bronstein /Getty Images

Tsagaan Turbat, professor of archeology and anthropology at the National University of Mongolia, said: “These new results may enable a shift in our understanding of Bronze Age dynamics.

The Bronze Age is a historical period, approximately 3300 BC to 1200 BC, which was characterized by the use of bronze, proto-writing in some areas, and other early features of urban civilization.

An ancient civilization is considered part of the Bronze Age because it either produced bronze by smelting its own copper and alloying it with tin, arsenic, or other metals, or traded other objects for bronze from production areas elsewhere.

Bronze was harder and more durable than other metals available at the time, allowing Bronze Age civilizations to gain a technological advantage.

The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History is located in Jena, Thuringia. It is one of more than 80 research institutions of the Max Planck Society.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

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