Palaeoenvironmental modelling of δ 13C and δ 15N values in the North Atlantic Islands: Understanding past marine resource use

J. R. Jones*, J. A. Mulville, R. A.R. McGill, R. P. Evershed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

RATIONALE: Carbon (δ 13C) and nitrogen (δ 15N) analysis has been extensively used to investigate the importance of marine foods in the diet of archaeological populations in the North Atlantic Islands; however, few faunal studies exist to aid the interpretation of results. Palaeoenvironmental modelling of δ 13C and δ 15N values is crucial in determining whether changes in the stable isotope values are a result of dietary change, rather than temporal or geographical fluctuations in carbon and nitrogen. Investigating faunal dietary behaviour can provide an insight into past foddering and land management strategies. METHODS: Detailed sampling of wild and domestic species for bulk collagen analysis was undertaken in order to characterise geographical variations in δ 13C and δ 15N values in the Outer Hebrides and Orkney. Samples from the Neolithic to the Norse period were analysed to assess temporal and geographical variations in δ 13C and δ 15N values, in addition to determining the contribution of marine foods to the diet of local fauna. RESULTS: A δ 15N shift of 1‰ was observed between the Outer Hebrides and Orkney in the Neolithic and Iron Age. A geographical variation in δ 13C values was observed in the Norse period between Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. Temporal fluctuations in δ 13C and δ 15N values demonstrate variations in foddering practices of sheep in the Outer Hebrides. Pig specimens from the Outer Hebrides demonstrated evidence of marine food consumption in the Iron Age. CONCLUSIONS: Faunal dietary behaviour can act as a vital indicator of the importance of marine resources in the past. Characterisation of faunal δ 13C and δ 15N values geographically and temporally is crucial in our interpretation of human dietary behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2399-2406
Number of pages8
JournalRapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
Volume26
Issue number20
Early online date14 Sep 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Organic Chemistry

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