Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (01): 63-74.doi: 10.16359/j.cnki.cn11-1963/q.2019.0017

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Stable isotope analysis of human remains from the Songzhuang Eastern Zhou Cemetery in Qixian, Henan Province: An investigation on the diet of nobles and human sacrifices

ZHOU Ligang1(), HAN Zhaohui1, SUN Lei1, HU Guoqiang2   

  1. 1. Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology, Zhengzhou 450099
    2. Qixian Museum, Qixian of Henan 456750
  • Received:2018-09-10 Revised:2018-11-29 Online:2021-02-15 Published:2021-02-25


This is the first study focusing on human diet of people from different social status during the highly stratified Eastern Zhou Dynasty. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopic values of two nobles and twenty-four human sacrifices from the Songzhuang cemetery revealed significant differences in staple food and meat consumption between these two groups. The nobles had a millet-based diet, and ate significantly more meat than sacrificed individuals; whereas the sacrificial victims consumed varying amounts of wheat as their staple, with some dietary variation. A comparison with contemporary isotopic data also suggests that these human sacrifices had a similar diet with urban commoners, suggesting that when alive they might have lived in cities with their masters. This work has revealed dietary features of human sacrifices, people who were often ignored by textual records. These results also confirm that wheat was mainly eaten by low-status individuals during the Eastern Zhou, providing important information for the study on human diet and social stratification in this period, as well as the investigation of agriculture and the expansion of wheat in northern China.

Key words: Biological Anthropology, Burials, Human diet, Stable isotope analysis, Social stratification

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