The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Geographic origins and diet during the Bronze Age in the Oman Peninsula


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, & Social Work, University of South Alabama

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Stable oxygen and carbon isotope analyses represent an effective means of assessing residential mobility and diet in past populations. Dental enamel from individuals (n=120) interred in six Umm an-Nar (2500-2000 BC) and seven Wadi Suq (2000-1300 BC) tombs in the UAE was utilized to test two hypotheses: (a) southeastern Arabia’s growing involvement in interregional Gulf trade during the Umm an-Nar would correspond with a more isotopically variable population, but with a purported collapse in exchange networks during the Wadi Suq, this variability would decrease considerably, and (b) a significant shift in diet would take place over time as Umm an-Nar agro-pastoral communities became increasingly mobile coastal gatherers in the Wadi Suq.

Mean δ18Oc ratios between the Umm an-Nar (-2.5 ± 0.8‰, 1σ) and Wadi Suq (-2.4 ± 0.7‰, 1σ) were not significantly different (Monte Carlo, p=0.36), with most individuals possessing homogeneous values indicative of predominantly local population that acquired water from isotopically similar sources. A corresponding lack of variance (Levene’s, p=0.36) implies that mobility did not change significantly over time, despite concurrent changes in social organization and trade relations. Mean Umm an-Nar δ13Cap ratios (-8.4 ± 2.9‰, 1σ) suggest a broad, varied diet consisting of C3 cultivars as well as marine resources. Unexpectedly, while archaeological evidence points to increased exploitation of littoral environments in the Wadi Suq period, few contributions from maritime sources are apparent (-11.1 ± 0.7‰, 1σ), and dietary variability much more restricted, signifying an increasing reliance on C3-based plants, possibly associated with oasis agriculture.

This research was supported by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (BCS-0961932), the Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) Scholar Award, the Ruggles-Gates Fund for Biological Anthropology, a Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research, an Ohio State International Affairs Grant, and an Ohio State Alumni Grant for Graduate Research and Scholarship.

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