Departement Umweltwissenschaften / Integrative Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie (IPNA)
From the 19th century onwards, the Indo-European expansion has been a grand historical narrative telling that during the 3rd millennium BC pastoral nomads migrated in several waves from the Pontic steppes into the West. The image of highly mobile groups riding on horses, using wagons pulled by oxen, and burying their dead in monumental mounds is supported by the virtual absence of settlements in the pre-Caucasian steppe. It is, however, also biased by the knowledge of impressive historical invasions and 20th century political conflicts. The objective of the proposed study is to critically review the expansionist image of the Eurasian Bronze Age and to challenge its central paradigm – the existence of large scale migrations in the pre-Caucasian steppe. An international team of scholars from Russia, Germany, and Switzerland will conduct interdisciplinary research at the borderline of the humanities and sciences. The study will integrate archaeological investigations and modern bioarchaeological research on skeletal remains including stable isotope analyses of strontium, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen in human teeth and bones and anthropological procedures, such as palaeopathology and the analysis of skeletal activity markers. The proposed research will be conducted using a huge collection of well documented skeletal series, excavated and stored according to modern standards by the department of antiquities GUP „Nasledie“ in the Stavropol' Region, Russia. Their quantity and excellent preservation will ensure a representative selection based on archaeological and environmental criteria. Moreover, the study will draw on archaeological and modern specimens to establish isotope ratio comparative maps (isoscapes) of the chemical elements under investigation. The project will foster international collaboration, method development and disclose past mobility patterns using evidence that is independent of burial rituals, ideologies, and images derived from modern history.
Bronze Age, Indo European expansion, Migration, Dietary reconstruction, Stabe isotope analyses, Caucasus region