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Keywords:

  • carbon;
  • isotopes;
  • livestock raising;
  • nitrogen;
  • the Neolithic;
  • the Wei River valley

ABSTRACT

Although a patchwork of projects shows a process of agriculture intensification in North China during the Neolithic, the impact of cereal farming on animal husbandry and their mutual interaction remain cloudy. This study reports bone collagen δ13C and δ15N of humans and animals from Wayaogou (ca 6.5–6.0 kyrs bp) and Dongying (ca 5.9–5.6 kyrs bp, 4.6–4.0 kyrs bp) to explore temporal trend of livestock raising and particularly the importance of millet fodder to stock raising practices in the Wei River valley, North China. The isotopic evidence overall shows that millet products increased in human and domestic animal diets during the mentioned chronological span. δ13C values of pigs and dogs at Dongying are higher than those at Wayaogou, implying that the importance of millet nutrients increased to animal husbandry diachronically. Interestingly, δ13C results of domestic cattle of Dongying late phase (−14.1 ± 1.1‰, N = 5) are more enriched than Wayaogou wild Bos (−17.8 ± 0.3‰, N = 3), indicating that millet fodder had taken a significant place in early cattle husbandry. Besides, differences between Bos species of the two periods also imply that δ13C values of bone collagen constitute a potential indicator for tracing the origin of cattle husbandry in North China. In addition, domestic sheep at Dongying produced similar isotope data to wild ovicaprid at Wayaogou, suggesting that they possibly had grazed for the most in grassland and therefore experienced a different lifestyle from cattle. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.