Stable isotope analysis: Outline of methodology and a review of studies in Siberia and the Eurasian steppe

S. V. Svyatko*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
95 Downloads (Pure)


Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis is one of the main techniques for assessing various aspects of life of prehistoric populations, including diet and economy. Here we present the theoretical basics of the method, and a review of the major stable-isotope paleodietary studies in Siberia and the Eurasian steppe by the end of 2013. Existing data show that the diet of various Chalcolithic to Early Iron Age populations in the region varied in time and space, and included substantial amounts of fish. Variations in diet and economy between groups of the same archaeological cultures were likely related to adaptations to local environments and climates. Millet appeared in the region (in the Minusinsk Basin) only in the 14th century BC. Thus Southern Siberia apparently became one of the first centers of millet cultivation in the entirety of Siberia. The impact of climate-particularly precipitation-on the isotopic values of humans has also been recorded. Despite the existence of a number of studies in Siberia and the Eurasian steppe, paleodietary research using stable-isotope analysis in the region is still at the data acquisition stage. One of the main criteria of modern research in the region is a systematic and well-designed approach to the isotopic analysis of various archaeological populations. This research must include not only human bone samples, but also all potential dietary components, such as terrestrial and aquatic animals, and associated plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-55
Number of pages9
JournalArchaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2016


  • Eurasian steppe
  • Paleodiet
  • Siberia
  • Stable-isotope analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies


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