Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Michele Buzon

Committee Member 1

Ian Lindsay

Committee Member 2

Kevin Vaugh

Committee Member 3

Christopher Schmidt


The Xiongnu were the first mobile pastoralist steppe polity to rise up from the Mongolian Steppe. Previous scholarship attributed the emergence of the Xiongnu to their peripheral location and interactions with sedentary China. It was argued that a polity the size of the Xiongnu could not be sustained on a pastoral economy, therefore they turned their attention to interactions with China to fuel their economic and political growth outside of the steppe. This line of thought has come to be known as Dependency Theory and food was at the center of this dependency argument. The expansion of a pastoral economy past its own borders was tied to the Xiongnu’s ability to acquire additional agricultural resources from China through trading and raiding. The current study takes a different approach, arguing that the pastoral economy of the Xiongnu was capable of facilitating their growth and expansion. To test this hypothesis the dietary patterns of two time periods (Late Bronze-Early Iron Age and Xiongnu Period) were tested using dental microwear texture analysis, the amount dental macrowear, and frequency dental pathological conditions. Any fluctuation in the data between these two periods of time suggest the Xiongnu consumed different types or amounts of food from the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age (a time of supposed little interaction between steppe populations and China). Ultimately, no differences were seen between the two time periods.