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Keywords:

  • oxygen;
  • carbon;
  • residential mobility;
  • paleodiet;
  • United Arab Emirates

ABSTRACT

The nature of the Bronze Age transition from the Umm an-Nar (ca. 2700–2000 BC) to the Wadi Suq (ca. 2000–1300 BC) period in the Oman Peninsula has been highly debated by archaeologists, with some characterizing the latter as a time of cultural isolation, social collapse, and/or population replacement following the successful involvement of the area in widespread interregional exchange networks across Arabia and South Asia. The hypothesis that a substantial change in residential mobility, immigration, and diet took place in response to considerable societal changes as reflected by the archaeological record was tested using stable oxygen and carbon isotope analysis. Archaeological human dental enamel from individuals interred in six Umm an-Nar (n = 100) and seven Wadi Suq (n = 16) communal tombs in the United Arab Emirates was used. Oxygen isotope data reveal largely homogeneous ratios indicative of a predominantly local population that acquired water from isotopically similar sources, although the presence of immigrants during both periods suggests that the region was not as isolated as previously held. Carbon isotope data exhibit a substantial temporal shift from an extremely varied to a more restricted diet, demonstrating that while considerable changes in subsistence strategies and social organization took place in the early second millennium BC, population continuity and sustained (although lessened) participation in pan-Gulf trade systems best characterizes this regional transformation. Am J Phys Anthropol 152:353–369, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.