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Shifting diets and the rise of male-biased inequality on the Central Plains of China during Eastern Zhou.


ABSTRACT: Farming domesticated millets, tending pigs, and hunting constituted the core of human subsistence strategies during Neolithic Yangshao (5000-2900 BC). Introduction of wheat and barley as well as the addition of domesticated herbivores during the Late Neolithic (?2600-1900 BC) led to restructuring of ancient Chinese subsistence strategies. This study documents a dietary shift from indigenous millets to the newly introduced cereals in northcentral China during the Bronze Age Eastern Zhou Dynasty (771-221 BC) based on stable isotope analysis of human and animal bone samples. Our results show that this change affected females to a greater degree than males. We find that consumption of the newly introduced cereals was associated with less consumption of animal products and a higher rate of skeletal stress markers among females. We hypothesized that the observed separation of dietary signatures between males and females marks the rise of male-biased inequality in early China. We test this hypothesis by comparing Eastern Zhou human skeletal data with those from Neolithic Yangshao archaeological contexts. We find no evidence of male-female inequality in early farming communities. The presence of male-biased inequality in Eastern Zhou society is supported by increased body height difference between the sexes as well as the greater wealth of male burials.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5293112 | BioStudies | 2017-01-01T00:00:00Z

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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