Palaeodietary analysis of the Bronze Age and early Iron Age populations from the Minusinsk Basin, southern Siberia, Russia

  • Svetlana Svyatko

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research focuses on the relations between the prehistoric environment human lifestyle and dietary changes in the Minusinsk Basin, Southern Siberia. The main objective of the study is to understand the dietary changes that occurred between the prehistoric populations of the area, and also to investigate the consumatory differences between the people of different sexes, ages and social groups. The study explores five main archaeological cultures and populations - the Afanasyevo, Okunevo Andronovo Karasuk and Tagar Cultures, dated from the 3rd millennium BC to the beginning of the 1st millennium AD.

Two main research methods have been employed: stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis and dental palaeopathological analysis. Statistical analysis (linear correlation and chi-square test) of the burials and radiocarbon dating of the human bone have also been utilized. A total of 313 humans were analysed.

The results indicate that the diet of the Afanasyevo - Andronovo populations of the Minusinsk Basin was primarily based on C3 sources and gradually transformed into diet based on a mixture of C3 and C4 sources in the Karasuk and Tagar Culture. The table isotope results also show an unexpectedly high proportion of fish in the diets of the individuals of all cultures. The results suggest that millet cultivation was introduced to the Minusinsk Basin approximately in the 14th century BC. Isotope analysis of animal bone samples revealed that domestic herbivores of all cultures were fed on C3 plants, while the diet of dog from the Karasuk and Tagar Cultures were similar to that of humans and included a mixture of C3 and C4 plants.

The results and observation of this research shed new light on the issue of spread of millet in Eurasia in the Late Bronze Age. It has been suggested that millet came to the Minusinsk Basin from northern China and thus Southern Siberia appears to have been one of the first regions which saw the spread of millet in the eastern part of Russia.
Date of AwardJul 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorEileen Murphy (Supervisor), James Mallory (Supervisor), Rick Schulting (Supervisor), Valery Khartanovich (Supervisor) & Yuri Chistov (Supervisor)

Cite this