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Dramatic social changes in ancient Mongolia linked to arrivals of herds and horses

Horses and Gers near Khoton (Syrgal) Lake near the Altai Mountains of Mongolia. Photo: Noost Bayarkhuu

The movement of herders and livestock into the eastern steppe is of great interest to researchers, but few scholars have linked the introduction of herds and horses to the rise of complex societies.

Now, a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE provides interdisciplinary support for connections between livestock dairying and the rise of social complexity in the eastern steppe.

Using proteomic analysis of human dental calculus from sites in the Mongolian Altai, the researchers demonstrate a shift in dairy consumption over the course of the Bronze Age. By tracking the consumption of dairy among populations in the Altai Mountains in Mongolia, researchers revealed the critical role of domesticated sheep, goats and cattle in ancient economies.

The adoption of ruminant livestock eventually led to population growth, the establishment of…

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