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Keywords:

  • aridification;
  • Bronze Age;
  • carbon isotopes;
  • climate change;
  • oxygen isotopes;
  • residential mobility;
  • strontium isotopes;
  • United Arab Emirates

Abstract

Stable oxygen isotope ratios in archaeological human dental enamel represent an under-utilised tool in the examination of changing climatic patterns in the ancient world. In the Oman Peninsula at the end of the third millennium bc, rapid aridification was accompanied by a breakdown in interregional trade relations; however, the human response to these changes is poorly understood. At the Bronze Age necropolis at Shimal in the United Arab Emirates, dental enamel from individuals interred in both Umm an-Nar (ca 2700–2000 bc) and Wadi Suq (ca 2000–1300 bc) tombs underwent oxygen, strontium and carbon isotope analyses to examine how local inhabitants of southeastern Arabia responded to both environmental and socioeconomic change. While individuals from Shimal exhibit a clear shift in mean δ18Oc(VPDB) values from the Umm an-Nar (−3.5 ± 0.6‰, 1σ) to the Wadi Suq (−2.4 ± 0.9‰, 1σ), corresponding 87Sr/86Sr and δ13Cap signatures display homogeneity indicative of continuity in Bronze Age lifeways. Together, these data highlight the ability of local communities to successfully adapt to their changing environs (in lieu of societal collapse or a shift to a more mobile lifestyle) in an effort to maintain their way of life. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.