Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 12, pp 6649–6662 | Cite as

Pastoralist strategies and human mobility: oxygen (δ18Op) and strontium (87Sr/86Sr) isotopic analysis of early human remains from Egiin Gol and Baga Gazaryn Chuluu, Mongolia

  • Michelle MachicekEmail author
  • Carolyn Chenery
  • Jane Evans
  • Asa Cameron
  • Andrew Chamberlain
Original Paper


The steppes of Central Asia have long been inhabited by communities practicing various forms of mobile pastoralism as their primary means of subsistence. This study explores the relationship between human mobility and organizational strategies at two distinct micro-regions situated within the modern-day borders of Mongolia. Our investigation was based on an analysis of oxygen (δ18Op) and strontium (87Sr/86Sr) isotopes in archeological human skeletal remains (n = 30) from Baga Gazaryn Chuluu, situated within the middle Gobi Desert and the Egiin Gol Valley in north-central Mongolia. The results indicate a marked degree of separation in local baseline values between the two regions, and corresponding variation was observed in the human skeletal samples. Intra-regional comparisons found that most individuals appear to have spent their childhood years within a “local” range for each particular region, with several notable exceptions that likely indicate a greater degree of lifetime mobility for certain individuals. Overall, the results support the probability that mobility patterns in the past were related to subsistence strategies developed within the discrete environmental zones that characterize the central regions of Mongolia.


Mongolia Bronze Age Iron Age Isotopes Mobility Pastoralism 



This work was undertaken as part of a program of doctoral research at the University of Sheffield by the first author. We wish to acknowledge the kind support of the Institute of History and Archeology in Ulaanbaatar and also the assistance and guidance provided by Drs. Chunag Amartuvshin and William Honeychurch.

Funding information

Funding for this project was generously provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (UK), the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC, Smithsonian Institution).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Intercultural and Anthropological StudiesWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA
  2. 2.NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, Kingsley Dunham CentreNottinghamUK
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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