Isotopic and zooarchaeological approaches towards understanding aquatic resource use in human economies and animal management in the prehistoric Scottish North Atlantic Islands

Jennifer R. Jones* (Corresponding Author), Jacqui Mulville

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Despite being surrounded by aquatic resources, the Prehistoric populations of the North Atlantic Islands have a complex history of aquatic resource that until now has been little understood. Specifically the changing importance and uses of aquatic resources through time, and the role of aquatic resources in the management of animals in prehistory requires further attention. This paper presents results of faunal isotopic analysis in combination with existing human isotopic evidence and zooarchaeological datasets from Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age sites in the Western Isles (also known as the Outer Hebrides) and Orkney to explore the importance of aquatic resources in the lives of these prehistory populations. In Orkney coastal grazing was an important aspect in the management of sheep throughout prehistory, whereas in the Western Isles this was only evident in the Bronze Age. Aquatic protein was also used in the management of pigs in the Western Isles during the Middle Iron Age. There is little evidence of humans consuming aquatic resources in the Neolithic, and only minor evidence of consumption in the Bronze Age. During the Iron Age aquatic resources become more important in the diet of humans. The Prehistoric Atlantic Islanders of Scotland had a complex and dynamic relationship with aquatic resources, especially in the role of animal management that changed throughout the course of prehistory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-677
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Early online date12 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016



  • Animal management
  • Aquatic resources
  • Islands
  • Isotopes
  • Orkney
  • Prehistory
  • Shorefront grazing
  • Western isles
  • Zooarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology

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