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Article contents

Strategic and sporadic marine consumption at the onset of the Neolithic: increasing temporal resolution in the isotope evidence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 November 2013

Janet Montgomery
Affiliation:
1Department of Archaeology, Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK (Email: janet.montgomery@durham.ac.uk; author for correspondence)
Julia Beaumont
Affiliation:
2Archaeological Sciences, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK
Mandy Jay
Affiliation:
1Department of Archaeology, Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK (Email: janet.montgomery@durham.ac.uk; author for correspondence) 2Archaeological Sciences, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK 3Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, Northgate House, West Street, Sheffield S1 4ET, UK
Katie Keefe
Affiliation:
4York Osteoarchaeology, Ivy Cottage, 75 Main Street, Bishop Wilton, York YO42 1SR, UK
Andrew R. Gledhill
Affiliation:
2Archaeological Sciences, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK
Gordon T. Cook
Affiliation:
5Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, Rankine Avenue, East Kilbride G75 0QF, UK
Stephen J. Dockrill
Affiliation:
2Archaeological Sciences, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK
Nigel D. Melton
Affiliation:
1Department of Archaeology, Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK (Email: janet.montgomery@durham.ac.uk; author for correspondence) 2Archaeological Sciences, School of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, UK
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Abstract

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Stable isotope analysis has provided crucial new insights into dietary change at the Neolithic transition in north-west Europe, indicating an unexpectedly sudden and radical shift from marine to terrestrial resources in coastal and island locations. Investigations of early Neolithic skeletal material from Sumburgh on Shetland, at the far-flung margins of the Neolithic world, suggest that this general pattern may mask significant subtle detail. Analysis of juvenile dentine reveals the consumption of marine foods on an occasional basis. This suggests that marine foods may have been consumed as a crucial supplementary resource in times of famine, when the newly introduced cereal crops failed to cope with the demanding climate of Shetland. This isotopic evidence is consistent with the presence of marine food debris in contemporary middens. The occasional and contingent nature of marine food consumption underlines how, even on Shetland, the shift from marine to terrestrial diet was a key element in the Neolithic transition.

Type
Research articles
Information
Antiquity , Volume 87 , Issue 338 , 1 December 2013 , pp. 1060 - 1072
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd. 2013

References

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