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Isotopic palaeodiet studies of Ancient Egyptian fauna and humans


Richards,  Michael P.
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Thompson, A. H., Richards, M. P., Shortland, A., & Zakrzewski, S. R. (2005). Isotopic palaeodiet studies of Ancient Egyptian fauna and humans. Journal of Archaeological Science, 32(3), 451-463.

We report here stable carbon and nitrogen isotope results from human and faunal bone collagen from samples taken from sites in the Egyptian Nile Valley and surrounding region, dating from the Predynastic (c. 5500 BC) through to the Dynastic (c. 343 BC) periods. Isotopic values for the human population cluster together across this broad time range, with high delta(15)N ratios, and delta(13)C values indicating a largely C-3 based diet. The human data is not easily explained through comparison with our associated faunal data, and so may be explained by the consumption of protein from an ecosystem we did not adequately sample, such as freshwater fish or plants and fauna with unusually high delta(15)N values due to the extreme aridity of this region. The faunal isotopic data we did produce shows a great range in values between and within species, especially in cattle, and reflects the close proximity of three ecozones across a relatively narrow geographical area; the river, the immediate flood-plain area around the Nile and the desert surroundings. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. [References: 62]