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Palaeoenvironmental modelling of δ13C and δ15N values in the North Atlantic Islands: understanding past marine resource use

Jones, Jennifer Rose, Mulville, Jacqueline, McGill, R. A. R. and Evershed, R. P. 2012. Palaeoenvironmental modelling of δ13C and δ15N values in the North Atlantic Islands: understanding past marine resource use. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 26 (20) , pp. 2399-2406. 10.1002/rcm.6319

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Abstract

RATIONALE Carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) analysis has been extensively used to investigate the importance of marine foods in the diet of archaeological populations in the North Atlantic Islands; however, few faunal studies exist to aid the interpretation of results. Palaeoenvironmental modelling of δ13C and δ15N values is crucial in determining whether changes in the stable isotope values are a result of dietary change, rather than temporal or geographical fluctuations in carbon and nitrogen. Investigating faunal dietary behaviour can provide an insight into past foddering and land management strategies. METHODS Detailed sampling of wild and domestic species for bulk collagen analysis was undertaken in order to characterise geographical variations in δ13C and δ15N values in the Outer Hebrides and Orkney. Samples from the Neolithic to the Norse period were analysed to assess temporal and geographical variations in δ13C and δ15N values, in addition to determining the contribution of marine foods to the diet of local fauna. RESULTS A δ15N shift of 1‰ was observed between the Outer Hebrides and Orkney in the Neolithic and Iron Age. A geographical variation in δ13C values was observed in the Norse period between Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. Temporal fluctuations in δ13C and δ15N values demonstrate variations in foddering practices of sheep in the Outer Hebrides. Pig specimens from the Outer Hebrides demonstrated evidence of marine food consumption in the Iron Age. CONCLUSIONS Faunal dietary behaviour can act as a vital indicator of the importance of marine resources in the past. Characterisation of faunal δ13C and δ15N values geographically and temporally is crucial in our interpretation of human dietary behaviour.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Additional Information: Presented at the Stable Isotopes Mass Spectrometry Users' Group (SIMSUG) held at the Lancaster Environment Centre, 23–24 November, 2011.
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0951-4198
Funders: NERC
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:21
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/37407

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