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. 2009 Jul 7;106(27):10971-4.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904826106. Epub 2009 Jul 6.

Stable Isotope Dietary Analysis of the Tianyuan 1 Early Modern Human

Free PMC article

Stable Isotope Dietary Analysis of the Tianyuan 1 Early Modern Human

Yaowu Hu et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
Free PMC article


We report here on the isotopic analysis of the diet of one of the oldest modern humans found in Eurasia, the Tianyuan 1 early modern human dating to approximately 40,000 calendar years ago from Tianyuan Cave (Tianyuandong) in the Zhoukoudian region of China. Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of the human and associated faunal remains indicate a diet high in animal protein, and the high nitrogen isotope values suggest the consumption of freshwater fish. To confirm this inference, we measured the sulfur isotope values of terrestrial and freshwater animals around the Zhoukoudian area and of the Tianyuan 1 human, which also support the interpretation of a substantial portion of the diet from freshwater fish. This analysis provides the direct evidence for the consumption of aquatic resources by early modern humans in China and has implications for early modern human subsistence and demography.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Scatter plot of δ15N vs. δ13C values for the human skeleton and the faunal remains from Tianyuan Cave. Black diamond: Tianyuan 1; gray square: wild cat; gray triangles: sikka deer; open triangles: herbivores. Error bars indicate measurement errors.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Sulfur isotope values of Tianyuan 1, 3 terrestrial animals from Tianyaun Cave, and 2 fish from Donghulin. Error bars indicate measurement errors.

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