High altitude hunting, climate change, and pastoral resilience in eastern Eurasia.

Taylor, William; Hart, Isaac; Pan, Caleb; Bayarsaikhan, Jamsranjav; Murdoch, James; Caspari, Gino; Klinge, Michael; Pearson, Kristen; Bikhumar, Umirbyek; Shnaider, Svetlana; Abdykanova, Aida; Bittner, Peter; Zahir, Muhammad; Jarman, Nicholas; Williams, Mark; Pettigrew, Devin; Petraglia, Michael; Lee, Craig; Dixon, E James and Boivin, Nicole (2021). High altitude hunting, climate change, and pastoral resilience in eastern Eurasia. Scientific reports, 11(1), p. 14287. Springer Nature 10.1038/s41598-021-93765-w

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The transition from hunting to herding transformed the cold, arid steppes of Mongolia and Eastern Eurasia into a key social and economic center of the ancient world, but a fragmentary archaeological record limits our understanding of the subsistence base for early pastoral societies in this key region. Organic material preserved in high mountain ice provides rare snapshots into the use of alpine and high altitude zones, which played a central role in the emergence of East Asian pastoralism. Here, we present the results of the first archaeological survey of melting ice margins in the Altai Mountains of western Mongolia, revealing a near-continuous record of more than 3500 years of human activity. Osteology, radiocarbon dating, and collagen fingerprinting analysis of wooden projectiles, animal bone, and other artifacts indicate that big-game hunting and exploitation of alpine ice played a significant role during the emergence of mobile pastoralism in the Altai, and remained a core element of pastoral adaptation into the modern era. Extensive ice melting and loss of wildlife in the study area over recent decades, driven by a warming climate, poaching, and poorly regulated hunting, presents an urgent threat to the future viability of herding lifeways and the archaeological record of hunting in montane zones.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences > Near Eastern Archaeology

UniBE Contributor:

Caspari, Gino Ramon


900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)




Springer Nature




Andrea Stettler

Date Deposited:

06 Aug 2021 15:18

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:52

Publisher DOI:


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