DIET ISOTOPE ANALYSIS AND RELATED STUDIES IN PREHISTORIC UKRAINE: FACT, FICTION AND FANTASY


Keywords: Ukraine, prehistory, dietary isotope analysis, δ13C, δ15N, AMS dating, freshwater reservoir effects.

Abstract

The authors consider scientific studies of Ukrainian skeletal material across the Epipalaeolithic to Eneolithic periods and offer some observations in relation to the efficacy of studies undertaken by different researchers. Firstly, the authors summarize the results of their own research since the original research undertaken by Lillie in the early 1990s, and present period based overviews (fig. 1—3) which discuss the nature of the evidence, the fact that fish remains important across the periods studied. The data also highlights the fact that by the Eneolithic period different culture groups are following distinct subsistence strategies. This is obviously marked by western dietary pathways linked to the integration of agro-pastoralism (and associated to presumed Trypillia farming groups at Verteba Cave), and those of the eastern hunter-fisher-foragers in the Dnieper region at Igren VIII and Molukhov Bugor.

Interestingly the chronological separation between these two sites is also linked to dietary variability. At the earlier site of Igren VIII there is diet isotope evidence for a relatively heavy reliance on freshwater resources as ca. 4300—4000 cal BC, whilst at the latter site of Molukhov Bugor, at 3950—3700 cal BC, a reduction in the reliance on freshwater resources is in evidence. This is accompanied by evidence for a broader spectrum approach to the exploitation of the wild resources in and around the Dnieper Rapids region. Radiocarbon dating is shown to be affected by the FRE at the sites in and around the Dnieper system. This is clearly not the case at Verteba Cave because the freshwater reservoir effect is not associated with dietary pathways that place a reliance on terrestrial resources.

The authors discuss the dating (fig. 4—6) and mobility and dietary isotope studies that they undertook at this location and contextualize these by comparison to the work of other researchers. It is suggested that some issues occur in relation to the different research groups activities at Verteba Cave, and the fact that there is a clear need for a more considered approach to the data presented by these other groups is highlighted. It could be argued that a lack of detailed knowledge and collaboration occurs despite the fact that there are clear overlaps between research agendas. The authors conclude with a call for targeted multi-disciplinary analyses aimed at whole cemetery studies in order to further enhance our understanding of socio-economic and societal developments during the early to mid-Holocene in Ukraine.

References

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2020-12-23
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Lillie, M. C., & Budd, C. E. (2020). DIET ISOTOPE ANALYSIS AND RELATED STUDIES IN PREHISTORIC UKRAINE: FACT, FICTION AND FANTASY . Archaeology and Early History of Ukraine, 37(4), 251-267. https://doi.org/10.37445/adiu.2020.04.20