New results of radiocarbon dating and identification of plant and animal remains from the Oglakhty cemetery provide an insight into the life of the population of southern Siberia in the early 1st millennium CE

Pavel E. Tarasov, Svetlana V. Pankova, Tengwen Long, Christian Leipe, Kamilla B. Kalinina, Andrey V. Panteleev, Luise Ørsted Brandt, Igor L. Kyzlasov, Mayke Wagner

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The semi-arid steppe and forest-steppe regions of southern Siberia have a long history of human occupation. During the Bronze and Iron Ages, the area became home to a number of archaeological cultures that greatly influenced the cultural and technological development and exchange processes in the middle latitudes of Eurasia and left a rich archaeological record. One of the lesser-known Iron Age archaeological cultures is the Tashtyk culture, which flourished in the Minusinsk Basin in the upper reaches of the Yenisei during the 1st to 7th centuries CE. Using an extensive set of radiocarbon dates and identifications of plant and animal remains from the best-preserved and most spectacular Grave 4 of the Oglakhty burial ground, our study aims to improve the age determination of the examined grave and to better understand the natural environments and way of life of the local population in this remote region of Central Asia during the early 1st millennium CE. Our dating approach could narrow down the probabilistic age range of the time at which Grave 4 was constructed and used to ca. 250–300 CE. The inferred age together with polychrome jin silks documented in Grave 4 suggests a connection between the local populations and silk producing centres in eastern China via either oases-states in the Tarim and Turfan basins or via the Mongolian steppes. The records of zooarchaeological remains and artefacts approve that the local Tashtyk people were skilful craftsmen and had a complex subsistence economy mainly based on animal husbandry, which was supplemented by hunting-gathering and small-scale agriculture. The available evidence on the use of sheep indicates that they played an important role in the local economy, although other domesticated animals (such as goats, cattle, horses) were bred as well. Whether reindeer were present locally (i.e. domesticated) or their skins were obtained through hunting or more distant exchange requires further investigation. Also, the role of agriculture and millet cultivation (mentioned in the reports of the first archaeological excavations) remains an important topic for upcoming research. The available, albeit still rare, palaeoenvironmental records from the region suggest drier conditions during the 4th to 1st centuries BCE, partly corresponding to a colder and dryer phase in the North Atlantic region. The regional pollen and isotope records demonstrate a weak trend towards wetter and warmer climate during the following five centuries representing the Tashtyk culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-183
Number of pages15
JournalQuaternary International
Volume623
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Age modelling
  • Agropastoral economy
  • Iron Age
  • Late Holocene palaeoenvironments
  • Minusinsk basin
  • Tashtyk culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes

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