Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Mesolithic and early Neolithic in the Iron Gates: a palaeodietary perspective

  • Clive Bonsall (a1) (a2), Rosemary Lennon (a1) (a2), Kathleen McSweeney (a1), Catriona Stewart (a1), Douglas Harkness (a3), Vasile Boroneanţ (a4), László Bartosiewicz (a5), Robert Payton (a6) and John Chapman (a7)...

Abstract

This paper is a study of diet and subsistence among Mesolithic and Early Neolithic populations in the Iron Gates section of the Danube Valley, with emphasis on the sites of Lepenski Vir and Vlasac in Serbia and Schela Cladovei in Romania. The first part of the paper reviews the evidence of animal and plant residues and human skeletal indicators; the second presents new data from stable isotopic analyses of human bone supported by AMS 14C dates. Isotopic and dental evidence suggest that Mesolithic people prior to 7600 BP had high protein diets in which the bulk of the protein was derived from riverine food sources. Significant differences are evident between the isotopic signals of Mesolithic males and females buried at Vlasac and Lepenski Vir, indicating differences in overall diet. These differences are most easily explained in terms of movement of individuals between groups, linked to the practice of local group exogamy. A shift in dietary pattern occurred at Lepenski Vir between ca 7600 and 7300 BP. The bone chemistry of individuals post-dating 7300 BP reflects the intake of significantly higher proportions of terrestrial foods. This change may reflect the introduction of stock-raising and/or cultivation in the Iron Gates. If so, then the transition from Late Mesolithic to Neolithic at Lepenski Vir was not characterised by a wholesale shift in subsistence from foraging to farming; the earliest Neolithic inhabitants of the site continued to obtain a significant proportion of their dietary protein from riverine resources. The wider implications of the AMS dates and stable isotopic data are also considered.

Cet article traite du régime alimentaire et des subsistances des populations habitant la région des Portes de Fer dans la vallée du Danube, et plus particulièrement les sites de Lepenski Vir et Vlasac en Serbie, ainsi que Schela Clavodei en Roumanie, pendant le Mésolithique et le début du Néolitique. La première partie de l'article examine en détail des résidus animaux et végétaux ainsi que les indicateurs de squelette humain, tandis que la deuxième partie présente de nouvelles données provenant d'analyses isotopiques stables d'ossements humains datés au moyen de C14 MGS. D'aprés des résidus dentaires et des traces isotopiques, il semble que le régime alimentaire des hommes du Mésolithique, avant 7600 av. J.-C., était riche en protéines, et que la majeure partie de ces protéines provenait d'une source d'alimentation d'origine fluviale. Il existe manifestement d'importantes différences entre les signaux isotopiques des hommes et des femmes du Mésolithique enterrés à Vlasac et Lepenski Vir, ce qui indique qu'll existe des différences quant à leur régime alimentaire global. Ces différences peuvent facilement s'expliquer par les mouvements d'individus entre les groupes, mouvements liés à la pratique de l'exogamie au sein de groupes appartenant à une mme région. Un changement d'habitubes alimentaires s'est produit à Lepenski Vir approximativement entre 7600 et 7300 av. J.-C. La composition chimique des ossements humains d'aprés 7300 av. J.-C. reflète une augmentation considérable de la consommation d'aliments d'origine terrestre. Il se peut que ce changement reflète l'introduction de l'élevage et/ou de la culture dans les Portes de Fer. Si tel est le cas, la période de transition qui va de la fin du Mésolithique jusqu'au Néolithique ne fut alors pas caractérisée, à Lepenski Vir, par un changement généralisé du mode de subsistance, passant de la cueillette à l'agriculture: en effet, les habitants de ce site, au tout début du Néolithique, continuaient de tirer une part considérable de leurs protéines de ressources fluviales. On examine aussi en détail les dates MGS et les données isotopiques stables, ainsi que les conséquences qui en découlent.

Dieser Artikel befaßt sich mit der Nahrung und Subsistenz bei der mesolithischen und frühneolithischen Bevölkerung in den ‘Eisernen Toren’ des Donautals, mit besonderer Betonung der Ausgrabungsstellen Lepenski Vir und Vlasac in Serbien und Schela Cladovei in Rumänien. Zuerst werden tierische und pflanzliche Überreste untersucht, sowie menschliche Knochenreste; der zweite Teil des Artikels legt neue Daten von stabilen isotopischen Analysen vor von menschlichem Knochenmaterial von 14C Material unterstützt. Isotopisches und dentales Beweismaterial deuten auf eiweißhaltigere Ernährungsweise bei der mesolithischen Bevölkerung vor 7600 BP, wobei der größte Teil des Proteins von Flußtieren stammte. Bedeutende isotopische Unterschiede sind zu vermerken zwischen den Skeletten von Männern und Frauen, die in Vlasac und Lepenski Vir begraben sind, was auf Unterschiede im Eßverhalten gesamten Lebensweise hindeutet. Die einfachste Erklärung für diese Unterschiede ist das Umziehen von Individuen zwischen Gruppen, verursacht durch die Sitte der östlichen Gruppenexogamie. Zwischen 7600 und 7300 BP wird in Lepenski Vir eine änderung in der Ernährungsweise sichtbar. Die individuelle Knochenzusammensetzung nach 7300 zeigt eine wesentlich höhere Aufnahme von landgebundenen Nahrungsmitteln, vielleicht aufgrund von Viehhaltung und/oder Landwirtschaft in dem ‘Eisernen Toren’. Wenn dies der Fall war, wurde der Übergang vom Spätmesolithikum zum Neolithikum bei Lepenski Vir nicht durch eine umfassende Änderung in der Ernährungsweise von Futtersuche zur Landwirtschaft charakterisiert. Die frühesten neolithischen Bewohner gewannen weiterhin einen erheblichen Anteil ihres Proteins aus den Flüssen. Die weiteren Auswirkungen der AMS Daten und dauerhafte isotopische Daten werden ebenfalls in Betracht gezogen.

Este artículo es un estudio acerca de la dieta y la subsistencia entre las poblaciones Mesolíticas y Neolíticas de la zona de las ‘Puertas de Hierro’ del Valle del Danubio, con especial hincapié en los yacimientos de Lepenski Vir y Vlasac en Serbia y Schela Cladovei en Rumanía. La primera parte del trabajo repasa las evidencias de residuos animales y vegetales así como los indicadores en esqueletos humanos; la segunda parte presenta nuevos datos a partir de análisis de isótopos estables de huesos humanos apoyados por datación de 14C AMS. La evidencia isotópica y dental sugiere que las poblaciones mesolíticas anteriores al 7600 BP tenían dietas muy altas en proteínas, en su mayor parte derivadas de fuentes de alimentación procedentes del río. Existen diferencias significativas entre los indicadores isotópicos de los individuos mesolíticos masculinos y femeninos enterrados en Vlasac y Lepenski Vir que indican diferencias en la globalidad de la dieta. Estas diferencias se explican más fácilmente en términos de movimientos de individuos entre gropos, ligadas a la practica de exogamia de gropo local. En Lepenski Vir se observa un cambio en el modelo alimentario entre ca 7600 y 7300 BP. Los análisis quimicos del hueso de los individuos datados con posterioridad a 7300 BP reflejan la toma de proporciones significativamente más altas de alimentos terrestres. Este cambio puede reflejar la introducción de la ganadería y/o la agricultura en la zona de las ‘Puertas de Hierro’. En ese caso, la transición del Mesolítico Final al Neolítico en Lepenski Vir no se caracterizańa por un cambio radical del modo de subsistencia de la depredación a la agricultura y ganadería; los primeros habitantes neolíticos del yacimiento continuaron obteniendo una proporción significativa de la proteína de su dieta a partir de recursos procedentes del ńo. También se consideran las implicaciones de las dataciones AMS, así como los datos de los isótopos estables.

Copyright

References

Hide All
Ambrose, Stanley H., 1990. Preparation and characterization of bone and tooth collagen for isotopic analysis. Journal of Archaeological Science 17: 431451.
Bartosiewicz, László, Boroneant, Vasile, Bonsall, Clive and Stallibrass, Susan, 1995. Schela Cladovei: a preliminary review of the prehistoric fauna. Mesolithic Miscellany 16 (2): 219.
Bartosiewicz, László, Boroneant, Vasile, Bonsall, Clive and Stallibrass, Susan, in press. New data on the fauna of the Iron Gates: a case study from Schela Cladovei, Romania. In Makkay, J. (ed.), From the Mesolithic to the Neolithic. Szolnok: Damjanich Museum.
Bender, Margaret M., Baerreis, David A. and Steventon, Raymond L., 1981. Further light on carbon isotopes and Hopewell agriculture. American Antiquity 46: 346353.
Boddington, Andrew, Neil Garland, A. and Janaway, Robert C., 1987. Death, Decay and Reconstruction: Approaches to Archaeology and Forensic Science. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Bökönyi, Sándor, 1978. The vertebrate fauna of Vlasac. In Srejović, D. and Letica, Z. (eds), Vlasac. A Mesolithic Settlement in the Iron Gates. Volume 2: Geology–Biology–Anthropology: 3565. Beograd: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Monograph DXII).
Boroneant, Vasile, 1970. La période epipaléolithique sur la rive roumaine des Portes de Fer du Danube. Prähistorische Zeitschrift 45 (1): 125.
Boroneant, Vasile, 1973. Recherches archéologiques sur la culture Schela Cladovei de la zone des Tortes de Fer'. Dacia 17: 539.
Boroneant, Vasile, 1989. Thoughts on the chronological relations between the Epi-Palaeolithic and the Neolithic of the low Danube. In Bonsall, C. (ed.), The Mesolithic in Europe. Papers Presented at the Third International Symposium, Edinburgh 2985: 475480. Edinburgh: John Donald.
Boroneanj, Vasile, 1990. Les enterrements de Schela Cladovei: nouvelles données. In Vermeersch, P. and Van Peer, P. (eds), Contributions to the Mesolithic in Europe: 121125. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
Boroneant, Vasile, Bonsall, Clive, McSweeney, Kathleen, Payton, Robert and Macklin, Mark G., in press. A Mesolithic burial area at Schela Cladovei, Romania. In Bintz, P. (ed.), Epipaléolithique et Mésolithique en Europe. Paléoenvironnement, peuplements et systèmes culturels. Actes du 5e colloque international UISPP (commission 11), Grenoble, 18–23 septembre 1995. Paris and Grenoble.
Brown, Thomas A., Erle Nelson, D., Vogel, J. S. and Southon, John R., 1988. Improved collagen extraction by improved Longin method. Radiocarbon 30: 171177.
Cǎrciumaru, Marin, 1973. Analyse pollinique des coprolithes livrés par quelques stations archéologiques des deux bords du Danube dans la zone des Portes de Fer. Dacia 17: 5360.
Chapman, John C., 1989. Demographic trends in Neothermal south-east Europe. In Bonsall, C. (ed.), The Mesolithic in Europe. Papers Presented at the Third International Symposium, Edinburgh 2985: 500515. Edinburgh: John Donald.
Chapman, John C., 1992. Social power in the Iron Gates Mesolithic. In Chapman, J. and Dolukhanov, P. (eds), Cultural Transformations and Interactions in Eastern Europe: 71121. Aldershot: Avebury.
Chisholm, Brian S., Erle Nelson, D. and Schwarcz, Henry P., 1982. Stable isotope ratios as a measure of marine versus terrestrial protein in ancient diets. Science 216: 11311132.
DeNiro, Michael J., 1985. Postmortem preservation and alteration of in vivo collagen isotope ratios in relation to palaeodietary reconstruction. Nature 317: 806809.
DeNiro, Michael J. and Epstein, Samuel, 1977. Mechanism of carbon isotope fractionation associated with lipid synthesis. Science 197: 261263.
DeNiro, Michael J. and Epstein, Samuel, 1981. Influence of diet on the distribution of nitrogen isotopes in animals. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 42: 341351.
DeNiro, Michael J. and Schoeninger, Margaret J., 1983. Stable carbon and nitrogen ratios of bone collagen: variation within individuals, between sexes and within populations raised on monotonous diets. Journal of Archaeological Science 10: 199203.
y'Edynak, Gloria, 1978. Culture, diet and dental reduction in Mesolithic forager–fishers of Yugoslavia. Current Anthropology 19: 616618.
y'Edynak, Gloria, 1989. Yugoslav Mesolithic dental reduction. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 78: 1736.
Ehrich, Robert W., 1974. Book review of Hunters, Fishers and Farmers of Eastern Europe 6000–3000 BC, by Ruth Tringham. American Journal of Archaeology 78: 435436.
Farnsworth, Paul, Brady, James E., DeNiro, Michael J. and MacNeish, Richard S., 1985. A re-evaluation of the isotopic and archaeological reconstruction of diet in the Tehuacan valley. American Antiquity 50: 102116.
Lengyel, Imre, 1978. Laboratory examination of the Vlasac human bone finds. In Srejović, D. and Letica, Z. (eds), Vlasac. A Mesolithic Settlement in the Iron Gates. Volume 2: Geology–Biology–Anthropology: 261284. Beograd: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Monograph DXII).
Lennon, Rosemary, 1991. A Study of Human Diet from Mesolithic and Early Neolithic Populations in Southeastern Europe: applications of isotope geochemical analysis of bone. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh.
Longin, R., 1971. New method of collagen extraction for radiocarbon dating. Nature 230: 241242.
Lubell, David, Jackes, Mary, Schwarcz, Henry, Knyf, Martin and Meiklejohn, Christopher, 1994. The Mesolithic–Neolithic transition in Portugal: isotopic and dentai evidence of diet. Journal of Archaeological Science 21: 201216.
Marković-Marjanović, J., 1972. Appendix II: Geology and Stratigraphy. In Srejović, D., Europe's First Monumental Sculpture. New Discoveries at Lepenski Vir: 182189. London: Thames and Hudson.
Mason, Sarah, Boroneant, Vasile and Bonsall, Clive, 1996. Plant remains from Schela Gadovei, Romania: a preliminary note. Mesolithic Miscellany 17 (2): 1114.
Meiklejohn, Christopher, Shentag, Catherine T., Venema, Alexandra and Key, Patrick, 1984. Socioeconomic change and patterns of pathology and variation in the Mesolithic and Neolithic of Western Europe: some suggestions. In Cohen, M.N. and Armelagos, G. (eds), Palaeopathology at the Origins of Agriculture: 75100. London: Academic Press.
Meiklejohn, Christopher and Zvelebil, Marek, 1991. Health status of European populations at the agricultural transition and the implications for the adoption of farming. In Bush, H. and Zvelebil, M. (eds), Health in Past Societies: Biocultural Interpretations of Human Skeletal Remains in Archaeological Contexts: 129145. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (International Series 567).
Milisauskas, Sarunas, 1978. European Prehistory. New York: Academic Press.
Nandris, John G., 1972. Book review of Europe's First Monumental Sculpture: New Discoveries at Lepenski Vir, by Dragoslav Srejović. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 38: 426429.
Nemeskéri, János, 1972. The inhabitants of Lepenski Vir. In Srejović, D., Europé's First Monumental Sculpture. New Discoveries at Lepenski Vir: 190204. London: Thames and Hudson.
Nemeskéri, János and Lengyel, Imre, 1978. The results of palaeopathological examinations. In Srejović, D. and Letica, Z. (eds), Vlasac. A Mesolithic Settlement in the Iron Gates. Volume 2: Geology–Biology–Anthropology: 231260. Beograd: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Monograph DXII).
Nemeskéri, János and Szathmáry, László, 1978. Individual data of the Vlasac anthropological series. In Srejović, D. and Letica, Z. (eds), Vlasac. A Mesolithic Settlement in the Iron Gates. Volume 2: Geology–Biology–Anthropology: 285426. Beograd: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Monograph DXII).
Park, Roderic and Epstein, Samuel, 1961. Metabolic fractionation of 13C and 12C in plants. Plant Physiology 36: 133138.
Parker, Patrick L., 1964. The biochemistry of the stable isotopes of carbon in a marine bay. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 28: 11551164.
Parkington, John E., 1991. Approaches to dietary reconstruction in the western Cape: are you what you have eaten? Journal of Archaeological Science 18: 331342.
Price, T. Douglas, 1989. The reconstruction of Mesolithic diets. In Bonsall, C. (ed.), The Mesolithic in Europe. Papers Presented at the Third International Symposium, Edinburgh 2985: 4859. Edinburgh: John Donald.
Prinz, Beth, 1987. Mesolithic Adaptations on the Lower Danube: Vlasac and the Iron Gates Gorge. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (International Series 330).
Radovanović, Ivana, 1996. The Iron Gates Mesolithic. Ann Arbor (Michigan): International Monographs in Prehistory.
Roberts, Charlotte and Manchester, Keith, 1995. The Archaeology of Disease. 2nd Edition. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing.
Ruma, L.T., 1987. The Chemical Analysis of Prehistoric Bones. A Palaeodietary and Ecoarchaeological Study of Bronze Age West Friesland. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (International Series 363).
Schoeninger, Margaret J., 1985. Trophic level effects in 15N/14N and 13C/12C ratios in bone collagen and strontium levels in bone mineral. Journal of Human Evolution 14: 515525.
Schoeninger, Margaret J. and DeNiro, Michael J., 1984. Nitrogen and carbon isotopic composition of bone collagen from marine and terrestrial animals. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 48: 625639.
Schoeninger, Margaret J., DeNiro, Michael J. and Tauber, Henrik, 1983. 15N/14N ratios of bone collagen reflect marine and terrestrial components of prehistoric human diet. Science 220: 13811383.
Schoeninger, Margaret J., Moore, Katherine M., Murray, Matthew L. and Kingston, John D., 1989. Detection of bone preservation in archaeological and fossil samples. Applied Geochemistry 4: 281292.
Schwarcz, Henry P., 1991. Some theoretical aspects of paleodiet studies. Journal of Archaeological Science 18: 261275.
Speth, John D., 1991. Nutritional constraints and Late Glacial adaptive transformations: the importance of non-protein energy sources. In Barton, N., Roberts, A.J. and Roe, D.A. (eds), The Late Glacial in North-west Europe: Human Adaptation and Environmental Change at the End of the Pleistocene: 169178. London: Council for British Archaeology (Research Report 77).
Srejović, Dragoslav, 1969. The roots of the Lepenski Vir culture. Archaeologia Iugoslavica. 10: 1321.
Srejović, Dragoslav, 1972. Europe's First Monumental Sculpture. New Discoveries at Lepenski Vir. London: Thames and Hudson.
Srejović, Dragoslav, 1989. The Mesolithic of Serbia and Montenegro. In Bonsall, C. (ed.), The Mesolithic in Europe. Papers Presented at the Third International Symposium, Edinburgh 2985: 481491. Edinburgh: John Donald.
Srejović, Dragoslav and Letica, Zagorka, 1978. Vlasac. A Mesolithic Settlement in the Iron Gates. 2 vols. Beograd: Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Monograph DXII).
Stump, R.K. and Frazer, J.W., 1973. Simultaneous determination of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen in organic compounds. Nuclear Science Abstracts 28: 746.
Sullivan, Charles H. and Kreuger, Harold W., 1981. Carbon isotope analysis of separate chemical phases in modern and fossil bones. Nature 292: 333335.
Tauber, Henrik, 1981. δ13 C evidence for dietary habits of prehistoric man in Denmark. Nature 292: 332333.
Tringham, Ruth, 1968. Hunters, Fishers and Farmers of Eastern Europe, 6000–3000 BC. London: Hutchinson.
Trotter, Mildred and Gleser, Goldine C., 1952. Estimation of stature from long bones of American Whites and Negroes. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 10: 463514.
Merwe, van der, Nikolaas, J. and Vogel, John C., 1978. 13C content of human collagen as a measure of prehistoric diet in Woodland North America. Nature 276: 815816.
Vogel, John C., 1978. Isotopic assessment of the dietary habits of ungulates. South African Journal of Science 74: 298301.
Vogel, John C. and van der Merwe, Nikolaas J., 1977. Isotopie evidence for early maize cultivation in New York State. American Antiquity 42: 238242.
Voytek, Barbara and Tringham, Ruth, 1989. Rethinking the Mesolithic: the case of south-east Europe. In Bonsall, C. (ed.), The Mesolithic in Europe. Papers Presented at the Third International Symposium, Edinburgh 1985: 492499. Edinburgh: John Donald.
Whittle, Alasdair, 1985. Neolithic Europe: A Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Whittle, Alasdair, 1996. Europe in the Neolithic. The Creation of New Worlds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Živanović, Srboljub, 1975. A note on the anthropological characteristics of the Padina population. Zeitschrift für Morphologie und Anthropologie 66 (2): 161175.
Zoffmann, Zsuzsanna K., 1983. Prehistorical skeletal remains from Lepenski Vir (Iron Gate, Yugoslavia). Homo 34: 129148.

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed