Duck fleas as evidence for eiderdown production on archaeological sites

Veronique Forbes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Eiderdown has long been an important resource for northern cultures in the past but is overlooked in archaeology. Down, presumed to be from Eider ducks, has only been identified from a handful of high status burials in Scandinavia. In order to test whether an archaeoentomological indicator for eiderdown production could be established, a survey of insects from two eiderdown productions sites in Iceland was conducted. The results identified over 500 duck fleas Ceratophyllus garei Rothschild and several beetle species from raw eiderdown and processing residue, as well as from pitfall traps placed in the floor of buildings where the down was stored and processed. It is argued that despite the fact that bird fleas parasitic on Eider ducks are not host-specific, their life history and microhabitat requirements, as well as the method employed to collect eiderdown, makes duck fleas a reliable indicator for eiderdown harvesting in archaeology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-111
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Early online date4 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015


  • Archaeoentomology
  • Archaeoparasitology
  • Eiderdown
  • Eider ducks
  • Bird fleas
  • trade


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