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

Bioarchaeological insight into subsistence of Alborz highlanders, northern Iran, during the Parthian period (c. 200 BCE – 226 CE)


Department of Bioarchaeology, Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw

April 18, 2020 10:30AM, Diamond 8-9 Add to calendar

Parthians were mobile herders from Central Asia who gradually gained control over Iran and Mesopotamia during the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE. The economy of their state is still not well known, especially in the Iranian mountainous provinces that are believed to have been inhabited by the transhumant pastoralists. Some insight into subsistence of the population living in that time in the Alborz mountains is possible thanks to stable isotope research. Human remains from two cemeteries: Liarsangbon (Guilan province) and Vestemin (Mazandaran province), were analyzed using collagen δ13C, δ15N and enamel 87Sr/86Sr values. Average δ13C values at both sites are similar (Vestemin: -18.1‰, s.d. 0.58, N=10; Liarsangbon: -17.7, s.d. 0.67, N=17) and they suggest diet with some indirect share of C4 plants, likely through the uptake from products of animals that grazed at C4-abundant pastures. Average δ15N differ between the sites (Vestemin: 8.7‰, s.d. 0.54; Liarsangbon: 9.3‰, s.d. 0.66) due to more arid conditions around Liarsangbon. At Liarsangbon most 87Sr/86Sr values are within the local range, but at Vestemin a bimodal distribution of 87Sr/86Sr suggests exploitation of two different zones, perhaps due to transhumance. Negative correlation between δ15N and δ13C values (r=-0.59, p<0.02) at Liarsangbon seems to be the consequence of a relatively wide spectrum of subsistence models from intensive high-manure farming in the valleys (high δ15N, low δ13C) to herding in the low-manure pastures abundant in C4 plants (low δ15N, high δ13C). Available data suggest higher diversification of subsistence strategies in more arid areas of the Alborz Mountains.

National Science Centre (NCN) in Poland, grant No. 2016/22/M/HS3/00353.

Slides/Poster (pdf)