Although many scholars have connected the introduction of herds and horses to the development of complex cultures, the spread of herders and animals into the eastern steppe continues to be of considerable interest to researchers.
A recent multidisciplinary study published in the journal PLOS ONE supports the associations between cattle dairying and the development of social complexity in the eastern steppe.
The researchers show a change in dairy consumption over the course of the Bronze Age using proteomic analysis of human dental calculus from sites in the Mongolian Altai.
Researchers discovered the crucial function of domesticated sheep, goats, and cattle in ancient societies by monitoring the consumption of dairy among communities in Mongolia’s Altai Mountains.
The adoption of ruminant cattle finally resulted in population expansion, the creation of neighborhood cemeteries, and the edifice of substantial monuments.
Despite the fact that these noticeable alterations happened at the same time as the earliest indications of horse dairying in Mongolia, eating horse dairy remained a relatively new custom until later times.
As we push back the dates of the introduction of livestock, we need to rethink the pace of social change, which may occur on much longer timescales.Alicia Ventresca Miller
Accordingly, when herds entered the Mongolian Altai, human diets changed very away, but following social and demographic changes took longer, according to the study’s primary author, Alicia Ventresca Miller, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan.
“As we push back the dates of the introduction of livestock, we need to rethink the pace of social change, which may occur on much longer timescales,” she said.
To find caseins and whey linked to ruminant and horse dairy, Ventresca Miller and associates from the University of Michigan and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany isolated proteins from calculus samples.
In an effort to better understand how ancient cultures altered with the adoption of domesticated animals, findings were analyzed in cooperation with scholars from the National University of Mongolia and the National Museum of Mongolia.
According to Ventresca Miller, a long-standing reliance on sheep, goats, and cattle helped fuel significant societal transformations and enormous construction projects. This is corroborated by the discovery of horse and ruminant bone deposits in various parts of Mongolia, as well as massive monumental Khirgisuurs in the Altai Mountains, which are composed primarily of ruminant bones.
“These new results might allow for a shift in our understanding of Bronze Age dynamics,” said Tsagaan Turbat, professor of archaeology and anthropology at the National University of Mongolia.
Turbat thinks that Sagsai tribes in the Altai Mountains may have been the source of the Deer Stone-Khirgisuur complexes, which are the best studied in the area.
According to the current study, the oldest known instance of horse dairying in the eastern steppe connected to Sagsai graves occurred around 1350 B.C.
Since horses were a significant part of ceremonial life, the researchers speculate that this may have been a novelty given the rarity of early evidence of horse milk drinking.