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Consumption of yak milk among the elite of the Mughal Empire


Yaks graze in modern Mongolia. Credit: Alicia Ventresca Miller

For the first time, researchers have pinpointed a date when elite members of the Mughal Empire drank yak milk, according to a study co-led by a University of Michigan researcher.

By analyzing the proteins found in ancient dental calculus, an international team of researchers provides direct evidence for the consumption of milk from several ruminants, including yaks. In addition, they discovered milk and blood proteins associated with both horses and ruminants. The team’s results are published in Communication biology.

The study presents new proteomic findings from an elite tomb of the Mughal era with exceptional preservation in permafrost. This is the first example of yak milk recovered from an archaeological context.

Previous research indicates that milk has been an important resource in Mongolia for more than 5,000 years. While the consumption of cattle, sheep, goat, and even horse milk has been securely dated, until now, it has been difficult to pinpoint when people first started drinking yak milk. Understanding of when and where humans domesticated these iconic species has been limited to the remains of rarely recovered yaks and artistic depictions of yaks. However, it is unclear if these are wild or domestic.

The discovery of an elite tomb from the Mongol era in northern Mongolia came as a surprise to researchers.

“Our most important find was an elite woman buried with a birch hat called a bogtog and silk robes depicting a golden five-clawed dragon. Our proteomic analyzes concluded that she drank yak milk during her lifetime,” said Alicia Ventresca Miller, UM Assistant. Professor of anthropology. “This helped us investigate the long-term use of this iconic animal in the region and its connections to elite rulers.”

Located along a high line shrouded in mist, the site bears the name “Khorij”, which means taboo. This tomb may have been considered elite, as researchers have recovered evidence of connections to the ruling elite, including a five-clawed dragon depicted on a Cizhou pot and a traditional robe or Deel.

c said and the National Museum of Mongolia.

Archaeologists have spent years collecting and preserving the pieces of silk and leather that litter the surface near the tombs. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, the permafrost has begun to thaw and the sites have been heavily pillaged.

“The degree of looting we’re seeing is unprecedented,” said Julia Clark of Nomad Science. “Nearly every tomb we can locate on the surface has been destroyed by looting.”

Archaeologists have long suspected this area was important, and it remains one of the main areas for grazing yaks today. While much was lost to looters, what remains of the burials is still well preserved within the permafrost.

An international team of researchers used dental calculus proteomic analysis to determine the diets of Mongol-era elites. They found proteins associated with the milk, blood, and other tissues that were consumed by different individuals.

“The really exciting thing is that between cows and yaks, there is only one difference in the amino acid sequence of the most common milk protein, and in this case, we were able to recover the yak-specific part, bos mutus,” said Shevan Wilkin, study author who specializes in Paleoproteomics, from the University of Zurich and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

Due to the amazing preservation made possible by the permafrost environmental conditions, the team was able to identify proteins of interest that were first recovered from archaeological samples. These included curd proteins as well as caprine and equine blood proteins that had not been previously recovered from dental scales.

more information:
Ventresca Miller, AR, Wilkin, S., Bayarsaikhan, J. et al. Permafrost preservation reveals proteomic evidence of consumption of yak milk in the 13th century. Communication biology (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s42003-023-04723-3 And www.nature.com/articles/s42003-023-04723-3

Provided by the University of Michigan

the quote: Yak Milk Consumption Among Elites of the Mongol Empire (2023, March 31) Retrieved March 31, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-yak-consumption-mongol-empire-elites.html

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