Scientific article
Open access

Bronze Age innovations and impact on human diet: A multi-isotopic and multi-proxy study of western Switzerland

Published inPLOS ONE, vol. 16, no. e0245726
Publication date2021

The archaeological Bronze Age record in Europe reveals unprecedented changes in subsistence strategies due to innovative farming techniques and new crop cultivation. Increasing cultural exchanges affected the economic system. The inhabitants of Switzerland played a pivotal role in this European context through relationships with the Mediterranean, the High and Middle Danube regions and the Alps thanks to the area's central position. This research aims to reconstruct, for the first time in Switzerland, human socio-economic systems through the study of human diet, herding and farming practices and their changes throughout the Bronze Age (2200–800 BCE) by means of biochemical markers. The study includes 41 human, 22 terrestrial and aquatic animal specimens and 30 charred seeds and chaff samples from sites in western Switzerland. Stable isotope analyses were performed on cereal and legume seeds (δ13C, δ15N), animal bone collagen (δ13Ccoll, δ15N, δ34S), human bone and tooth dentine collagen (δ13Ccoll, δ15N,) and human tooth enamel (δ13Cenamel). The isotopic data suggest a) an intensification of soil fertilization and no hydric stress throughout the Bronze Age, b) a human diet mainly composed of terrestrial resources despite the proximity of Lake Geneva and the Rhone river, c) a diet based on C3 plants during the Early and Middle Bronze Age as opposed to the significant consumption of 13C-enriched resources (probably millet) by individuals from the Final Bronze Age, d) no important changes in dietary patterns throughout an individual's lifespan but a more varied diet in childhood compared to adulthood, e) no differences in diet according to biological criteria (age, sex) or funerary behavior (burial architecture, grave goods).

  • Archéologie
  • Préhistoire
  • Europe
  • Suisse
  • Age du Bronze
  • Alimentation
  • Isotopes stables
  • Autre - Fondation Boninchi (M. Besse)
  • Autre - Fondation Fyssen (A. Varalli)
Citation (ISO format)
VARALLI, Alessandra et al. Bronze Age innovations and impact on human diet: A multi-isotopic and multi-proxy study of western Switzerland. In: PLOS ONE, 2021, vol. 16, n° e0245726. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0245726
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1932-6203

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