The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Mobility of people or cultural affinities? Strontium isotope research at Estark-Joshaqan, a multi-phase cemetery at the western border of Iranian Central Plateau


1Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre, University of Warsaw, 2Department of Archaeology, University of Kashan, 3Department of Bioarchaeology, Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw

April 16, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Estark-Joshaqan is a cemetery located at the valley in the Karkas Mountains near Kashan. It was used from the Middle Bronze Age until the Early Iron Age (~1800-800 BCE). Four seasons of excavations, conducted since 2016, revealed that the majority of graves had shaft construction, an unusual feature for the Iranian Central Plateau. The nearest analogy in burial rite is observed at the territory of present-day southern Turkmenistan. Close similarities between Central Plateau and steppes of Central Asia may suggest either population movement or strong cultural affinities between these two regions.

In order to verify whether individuals inhabiting Estark were local or came from a more distant region, strontium isotope analysis (87Sr/86Sr) in human dental enamel was conducted. We studied 24 permanent first incisors and first molars of individuals from three different chronological phases: Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. Moreover, 6 individuals from nearby sites: Kashan (Parthian period) and Bidgol (Islamic period) were included for comparison. Isotopic signatures of all individuals suggest their local origin. Only two Late Bronze Age male individuals from Estark had slightly different strontium proportions that could have indicated immigration. However, their isotopic values fell into the local variability of the alluvial Kashan plain close to site, so most likely their movement consisted of only several kilometers within this region. Our preliminary results show that there is no evidence of long-distance migration of nomadic tribes from the steppes of Central Asia to the Iranian Central Plateau.

Project is financed by the Polish National Science Centre (decision no. DEC-2016/22/M/HS3/00353, HARMONIA and DEC-2017/27/N/HS3/01373, PRELUDIUM).

Slides/Poster (pdf)