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

Foodways and Polity Formation: A Bioarchaeological Analysis of the Xiongnu Using Dental Microwear Texture Analysis and Pathological Conditions


1Department of Anthropology, Purdue University, 2Department of Anthrpology, University of Indianapolis

Saturday 10:30-10:45, Ballroom B Add to calendar

The current study applies the technique of dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA) to archaeological populations from Mongolia to address what role, if any, foodways played in the formation of the first nomadic polity in eastern Eurasia, the Xiongnu (500 B.C.-A.D. 155). Previous anthropological studies have examined the development of the Xiongnu polity through the lens of dependency theory, meaning the polity was only able to fully develop and maintain its power through a web of connections between themselves and sedentary outsiders. This is highlighted in the Chinese ethnohistoric record that outlines numerous accounts of the Xiongnu’s desire to obtain agricultural foods through raiding or trading with Chinese border markets. The current research uses DMTA variables (anisotropy and textual fill volume) and dental pathological conditions to compare two distinct time periods in Mongolian prehistory: the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age (1200-300 B.C.; characterized by the growth and expansion of mobile pastoralism) and Xiongnu period (characterized by increased interaction with China and the rise of the Xiongnu polity). The low occurrence of dental pathological conditions (14/167 individuals had carious lesions) and texture results (high anisotropy and low textual fill volume) indicate that little to no difference can be viewed between these two time periods, thus suggesting that among the observed samples little dietary variation can be accounted for between the two time periods.

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