Before Farming

Tasting the forbidden fruit: gender based dietary differences among prehistoric hunter-gatherers of Eastern Europe

Before Farming (2003), 2003, (2), 1–16.

Abstract

This paper evaluates isotope ratios from a number of males and females from the cemeteries of the Dnieper Rapids region, Ukraine, and assesses the validity of assertions by researchers of both Ukrainian prehistory and of many European archaeologists, that males have preferential access to dietary protein sources, particularly meat, in earlier hunter-gatherer societies (Balakin & Nuzhinyi 1995).

Using evidence from the archaeological, faunal, anthropological and isotopic data, alongside a consideration of the anthropological literature, an attempt is made to generate a realistic and indeed, more holistic understanding of the Epipalaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic populations of this region.

Limitations in the skeletal database for earlier populations usually necessitate the integration of a wide range of parameters to ensure the generation of a realistic model for these societies. The extensive archaeological record associated with the populations under consideration enables such a study to be undertaken. In effect this research aims to highlight the fact that we are at a stage whereby, given a sufficiently robust archaeological record, a meaningful understanding of earlier Holocene populations can be generated.

The palaeopathological and isotopic studies undertaken to date suggest that these populations consumed varied diets, although with an apparent focus on fish proteins throughout the periods considered, and that in general health status was good from the Epipalaeolithic through to Neolithic periods.

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Lillie, Malcolm