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Dairy pastoralism sustained eastern Eurasian steppe populations for 5,000 years

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  • Shevan Wilkin
  • Alicia Ventresca Miller
  • William T T Taylor
  • Bryan K Miller
  • Richard W Hagan
  • Madeleine Bleasdale
  • Ashley Scott
  • Sumiya Gankhuyg
  • Abigail Ramsøe
  • S Uliziibayar
  • Christian Trachsel
  • Paolo Nanni
  • Jonas Grossmann
  • Ludovic Orlando
  • Mark Horton
  • Philipp W Stockhammer
  • Erdene Myagmar
  • Nicole Boivin
  • Christina Warinner
  • Jessica Hendy


Publication details

JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
DateAccepted/In press - 17 Jan 2020
DatePublished (current) - 2 Mar 2020
Issue number3
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)346-355
Original languageEnglish


Dairy pastoralism is integral to contemporary and past lifeways on the eastern Eurasian steppe, facilitating survival in agriculturally challenging environments. While previous research has indicated that ruminant dairy pastoralism was practiced in the region by circa 1300 BC, the origin, extent and diversity of this custom remain poorly understood. Here, we analyse ancient proteins from human dental calculus recovered from geographically diverse locations across Mongolia and spanning 5,000 years. We present the earliest evidence for dairy consumption on the eastern Eurasian steppe by circa 3000 BC and the later emergence of horse milking at circa 1200 BC, concurrent with the first evidence for horse riding. We argue that ruminant dairying contributed to the demographic success of Bronze Age Mongolian populations and that the origins of traditional horse dairy products in eastern Eurasia are closely tied to the regional emergence of mounted herding societies during the late second millennium BC.

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© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2020. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

    Research areas

  • Animals, Horses, Humans

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