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Paleodietary Analysis of Humans in Guanzhong Basin, Shaanxi Province Since 8000 BP

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 August 2017

Peng Cheng
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Xi’an 710061, China Xi’an AMS Center and Province Key Laboratory, Xi’an 710043, China
Weijian Zhou*
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Xi’an 710061, China Xi’an AMS Center and Province Key Laboratory, Xi’an 710043, China Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
Wei Gong
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Xi’an 710061, China
YiZhi Zhu
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Xi’an 710061, China Xi’an AMS Center and Province Key Laboratory, Xi’an 710043, China
Yachang Yang
Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Xi’an 710043, China
G S Burr
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Xi’an 710061, China Xi’an AMS Center and Province Key Laboratory, Xi’an 710043, China
Hua Du
State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Xi’an 710061, China Xi’an AMS Center and Province Key Laboratory, Xi’an 710043, China
*Corresponding author. Email:


We identified human paleodietary changes from inhabitants of the Guanzhong basin since 8000 BP, based on published carbon and nitrogen isotopic measurements on bones, fauna and plant remains. We also directly measured 14C ages, δ13C and δ15N values from bones unearthed at the Zhouyuan site, west of Guanzhong, in order to reconstruct paleodietary changes of the ancient inhabitants. We found that during the Laoguantai period, animal foods were the main source of nourishment with supplementary plant-derived foods. After this period, plant-derived foods became the main food source, with supplementary animal sources. The development of dry farming led to increased consumption of foxtail millet and broomcorn millet. This trend persisted and marked a fundamental shift from hunting, gathering, and fishing to farming and animal domestication. The dietary trends of the ancient inhabitants also show pronounced regional differences through time. The use of domestic animals was proportionally higher in the eastern part of the Guanzhong region, while wild animals were more common in the west.

© 2017 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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Selected Papers from the 8th Radiocarbon & Archaeology Symposium, Edinburgh, UK, 27 June–1 July 2016



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