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Dietary Reconstruction and Reservoir Correction of 14C Dates on Bones from Pagan and Early Christian Graves in Iceland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

Árný E Sveinbjörnsdóttir
Affiliation:
Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland, Sturlugata 7, IS-101 Reykjavík, Iceland. Email: arny@raunvis.hi.is
Jan Heinemeier
Affiliation:
AMS 14C Dating Centre, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade 120, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. Email: jh@phys.au.dk
Jette Arneborg
Affiliation:
National Museum of Denmark, Frederiksholms Kanal 12, DK-1220 Copenhagen K, Denmark
Niels Lynnerup
Affiliation:
Laboratory of Biological Anthropology, Panum Institute, Blegdamsvej 3, DK-2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark
Gudmundur Ólafsson
Affiliation:
National Museum of Iceland, Sudurgata 41, IS-101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Gudný Zoëga
Affiliation:
Skagafjordur Heritage Museum, 560 Varmahlíd, Iceland
Corresponding
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Abstract

In this study, δ13C and δ15N of bone samples from 83 skeletons (79 humans, 2 horses, and 2 dogs) excavated from pagan and early Christian graves from 21 localities in Iceland are used to reconstruct diet of the early settlers in Iceland and possible differences in diet depending on the distance between the excavation site and the seashore. We have radiocarbon dated 47 of these skeletons and used the carbon isotopic composition (δ13C) to estimate and correct for the marine reservoir effect (the 14C difference between terrestrial and mixed marine organisms). The reservoir-corrected ages lie in the range of AD 780–1270 (68.2% probability). Reservoir age corrections were checked by comparing 14C dates of a horse (terrestrial diet), a dog (highly marine diet), and a human (mixed diet) from the same burial. The range in measured marine protein percentage in individual diet is from about 10% up to 55%, mostly depending on the geographical position (distance from the sea) of the excavation site. We had access to the skeleton (AAR-5908) of the Skálholt bishop Páll Jónsson whose remains are enshrined at the Episcopal residence in Skálholt, southern Iceland. According to written sources, the bishop died in AD 1211. Using our dietary reconstruction, his bones were about 17% marine, which is within the range of human skeletons from the same area, and the reservoir-corrected calibrated 14C age of the skeleton is in accord with the historical date.

Type
Bone Dating and Paleodiet Studies
Copyright
Copyright © 2010 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

References

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