Inferring animal husbandry strategies in coastal zones through stable isotope analysis: new evidence from the Flemish coastal plain (Belgium, 1st–15th century AD)

Gundula Mueldner, Kate Britton, Anton Ervynck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In a proof-of-concept study, Britton et al. (2008) demonstrated that the isotopic composition of halophytic plants can be traced in the skeletal tissues of their animal consumers. Here we apply the method to domestic herbivore remains (n = 303) from nine archaeological sites in or near the Flemish coastal plain (Belgium), where, prior to embankments, salt-marshes offered extensive pasture grounds for domestic herbivores. The sites span a period of ∼1500 years (Roman to late medieval period), during which the coastal landscape was progressively transformed from little managed wetlands to a fully embanked polder area. The bulk collagen data show variations between sites and over time, which are consistent with this historical framework and are interpreted as reflecting environmental change and differences in animal management in the coastal plain throughout the late Holocene. The study demonstrates the immense value of faunal stable isotope analysis for characterising coastal husbandry strategies beyond the means of traditional zooarchaeological techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-332
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume41
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014

Keywords

  • isotope analysis
  • carbon
  • nitrogen
  • animal bone
  • collagen
  • husbandry
  • coastal environments
  • Roman
  • medieval

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