M.A. Theses: Pei Pei Chu, 1998

Dietary Variation Among the Prehistoric Asiatic Eskimo

Asiatic Eskimo cultures flourished along the Siberian coast, but settlements were concentrated around the Bering Strait region. One such site is Ekwen, a prehistoric village occupied for over a thousand years. Archaeological research on this and other Asiatic Eskimo sites indicates that these people were dependent upon marine resources. We can test these archaeological conclusions with stable isotope analysis on the human remains found in the village cemetery at Ekwen. This analysis can provide information about marine dietary adaptations as well as social sharing of resources within the population. To conduct this study, stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic measurements were taken from 21 faunal samples and 74 prehistoric Asiatic Eskimo individuals from Ekwen. Results indicate that protein diet consisted entirely of marine species and preclude terrestrial species such as reindeer from having been significant dietary sources. More specifically, the Ekwen diet was composed of mostly high trophic level marine species, with a smaller proportion of lower trophic level marine species. Intrapopulation comparisons indicate that significant isotopic variation existed among age groups, especially between adults and subadults. Finally, some dietary differences appear to have existed between the Old Bering Sea culture and the later cultural periods.