(ORDO NEWS) — It turned out that the state affects the diversity of the diet more than the climate.
What determines what a person eats? With our contemporaries, everything is complicated: here is the level of well-being, and medical recommendations, and restrictions due to religious views, and in the end, the location of the nearest supermarket or shop selling cassava.
In the past, some of these reasons were apparently absent. But it is precisely by nutrition, by changing the diet, that scientists judge the historical processes that have taken place in society, and the cataclysms through which it goes, and much more.
Let us turn to ancient societies. There is an opinion that the diet was formed solely for natural reasons: what grew and who was hunted was eaten. In the early history of mankind, this is certainly the case. But what happened later?
To what extent did emerging states influence the nutrition of their inhabitants? Or has everything always depended only on the climatic features of a particular region?
Anthropologists from the University of Utah (USA) conducted a study of the diet of people who lived in the Central Andes in the period from 400 to 7000 years ago.They took open data on the remains of 1,767 people found in the archaeological sites of Peru, northern Chile and Lake Titicaca (Bolivia).
For each find site, profiles of average annual precipitation and temperatures, as well as their seasonal fluctuations, were modeled. In addition, we took into account indirect estimates of the number of inhabitants for the corresponding periods.
The nutritional habits of the Andean inhabitants were recognized by the concentration of carbon-13 and nitrogen-15 isotopes in bone collagen.
Such data reflect the average diet of a person throughout his life: they determine how much the diet consisted of various products of plant (richer in carbon) and animal (richer in nitrogen) origin.
The Andean region in question was inhabited throughout the period under study, and people lived at different altitudes, where the climate, of course, varied.
Therefore, the researchers divided the samples into three groups, depending on the location of the find: coastal communities, inhabitants of the mountains of medium height and inhabitants of the highlands.
For the earliest time period, this is what turned out. Coastal communities relied mainly on marine resources and little on agriculture.
People living in low mountains had access to some marine resources, bred animals (mainly llamas), but for the most part relied on agriculture. In the diet of the inhabitants of the highlands, there were few crop products, and basically they ate the meat of all the same llamas.
Around 670-1070, the diets of the coastal and low mountain dwellers become similar, especially in the case of eating plant foods (for carbon-13). What happened at that time? Firstly, it was then that the cultivation of corn, which occupied a significant place in the diet, was quite widespread.
Secondly, archaeological finds indicate that this is the heyday of the Tiwanaku and Huari empires . It can be assumed that the strengthening of statehood contributed to the development of regional trade and resettlement. At the same time, in the highlands, they still ate mainly llama meat.
And so it went on for some time. But around 1540-1600, the diet of the inhabitants of all three zones conditionally divided by height becomes almost the same.
As you might guess, such a change coincides with the period of the power of the Inca Empire (which at that time was not hindered even by the sluggish struggle with the Spanish conquerors). Most likely, the centralized power there influenced the lives of people much more than the authorities of Huari and Tiwanaku.
Archaeological finds also confirm that the Inca state was highly centralized, while the subordination of the regions was maintained at a high level.
The construction of dwellings and temple buildings, ceremonial and ritual elements, the arrangement of cities, the famous Inca law – all these signs indicate that the empire was ruled with an iron hand. It is known from sources that even the practices of cultivating the land and creating reserves in this state often descended from above, centrally.
The authors of the work conclude that the climate fully determines human nutrition only at an early stage in the development of communities, before the emergence of a state with centralized power.
True, the researchers for some reason believe that their results may be of interest not only from the point of view of anthropology and history, but also for forecasts regarding nutrition patterns in different regions.
It is not entirely clear under what conditions the need for such forecasting may arise, because today such states are practically ubiquitous.
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