Stable Isotope Analysis of Human Bone from Ganj Dareh, Iran, Ca. 10,100 calBP

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Merrett, D. C., Cheung, C., Meiklejohn, C., & Richards, M. P. (2021). Stable isotope analysis of human bone from Ganj Dareh, Iran, ca. 10,100 calBP. PLOS ONE, 16(3), e0247569.

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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0247569

We report here on stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotope values from bone collagen of human (n = 20) and faunal (n = 11) remains from the Early Neolithic site of Ganj Dareh, Iran, dating to ca. 10,100 cal. BP. Our focus explores how isotope values of human bone vary by age and sex, and evaluates dietary practices at this site. It also provides a baseline for future studies of subsistence in the early Holocene Central Zagros Mountains, from the site with the first evidence for human ovicaprid management in the Near East. Human remains include individuals of all age groups for dietary reconstruction, as well two Ottoman intrusive burials for temporal and cultural comparison. All analyzed individuals exhibited δ13C and δ15N values consistent with a diet based heavily on C3 terrestrial sources. There is no statistically significant difference between the isotopic compositions of the two sexes, though males appear to show larger variations compared to females. Interesting patterns in the isotopic compositions of the subadults suggested weaning children may be fed with supplements with distinctive δ13C values. Significant difference in sulfur isotope values between humans and fauna could be the earliest evidence of transhumance and could identify one older adult male as a possible transhumant shepherd. Both Ottoman individuals had distinctively different δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S values compared to the Neolithic individuals. This is the first large scale analysis of human stable isotopes from the eastern end of the early Holocene Fertile Crescent. It provides a baseline for future intersite exploration of stable isotopes and insight into the lifeways, health, and processes of neolithisation associated with the origins of goat domestication at Ganj Dareh and the surrounding Central Zagros.

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