Seaweed fertilisation impacts the chemical and isotopic composition of barley

Implications for analyses of archaeological skeletal remains

Magdalena Blanz* (Corresponding Author), Philippa Ascough, Ingrid Mainland, Peter Martin, Mark A. Taggart, Burkart Dieterich, John Wishart, Kerry L. Sayle, Andrea Raab, Jörg Feldmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Fertilisation with animal manure has been shown to affect crop chemical and isotopic composition, indicating that if manuring effects are not taken into account, there is a risk of overestimating consumer trophic levels in palaeodietary studies. The effect of fertilisation with seaweed, a common fertiliser in the past in coastal areas, has been the subject of several hypotheses, but until now has not been studied in this particular context. In this study the impact of fertilising bere, an ancient type of Scottish barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), with 25 t/ha and 50 t/ha seaweed, in comparison to a modern commercial mineral fertiliser and to no fertilisation, was investigated in a field trial on the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Stable isotope ratios (δ 13 C and δ 15 N) and elemental concentrations (B, Mg, K, Ca, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Sr, Mo, Cd and Pb) of grain, husk and straw samples were determined. Significant differences were found between treatment groups, including increases in δ 15 N values of 0.6 ± 0.5‰ (average ± 1σ for five replicate plots) in grain, and 1.1 ± 0.4‰ in straw due to seaweed fertilisation. Elevated concentrations of Sr in grain and husk samples (factors of 1.2–1.4) indicate the geographic tracer 87 Sr/ 86 Sr may also be affected. Fertilisation with seaweed thus needs to be considered for archaeological interpretations of chemical and isotopic compositions of crop and skeletal material for accurate palaeodietary and provenance reconstructions, particularly in coastal areas. Further implications of these results for studies concerning the effects of sea spray, radiocarbon-dating, and for dietary reconstructions using trace elements are also identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-44
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume104
Early online date19 Feb 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Fingerprint

agricultural product
reconstruction
animal
interpretation
Barley
Skeletal Remains
Archaeology
Values
Group
Coast
Crops
Trophic Level
Plot
Group Treatment
Dietary Reconstruction
Minerals
Manuring
Radiocarbon Dating
Orkney
Manure

Keywords

  • Archaeological chemistry
  • Coastal archaeology
  • Crop husbandry
  • Kelp fertiliser
  • Land management
  • Manuring
  • Past/prehistoric agriculture
  • PLANT
  • N-15
  • TROPHIC LEVEL
  • MESOLITHIC-NEOLITHIC CHANGE
  • ACID DELTA-N-15 VALUES
  • NATURAL-ABUNDANCE
  • CEREAL GRAIN
  • SEA SPRAY
  • STABLE-ISOTOPE
  • NITROGEN ISOTOPES

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

Cite this

Seaweed fertilisation impacts the chemical and isotopic composition of barley : Implications for analyses of archaeological skeletal remains. / Blanz, Magdalena (Corresponding Author); Ascough, Philippa; Mainland, Ingrid; Martin, Peter; Taggart, Mark A.; Dieterich, Burkart; Wishart, John; Sayle, Kerry L.; Raab, Andrea; Feldmann, Jörg.

In: Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 104, 04.2019, p. 34-44.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Blanz, Magdalena ; Ascough, Philippa ; Mainland, Ingrid ; Martin, Peter ; Taggart, Mark A. ; Dieterich, Burkart ; Wishart, John ; Sayle, Kerry L. ; Raab, Andrea ; Feldmann, Jörg. / Seaweed fertilisation impacts the chemical and isotopic composition of barley : Implications for analyses of archaeological skeletal remains. In: Journal of Archaeological Science. 2019 ; Vol. 104. pp. 34-44.
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abstract = "Fertilisation with animal manure has been shown to affect crop chemical and isotopic composition, indicating that if manuring effects are not taken into account, there is a risk of overestimating consumer trophic levels in palaeodietary studies. The effect of fertilisation with seaweed, a common fertiliser in the past in coastal areas, has been the subject of several hypotheses, but until now has not been studied in this particular context. In this study the impact of fertilising bere, an ancient type of Scottish barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), with 25 t/ha and 50 t/ha seaweed, in comparison to a modern commercial mineral fertiliser and to no fertilisation, was investigated in a field trial on the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Stable isotope ratios (δ 13 C and δ 15 N) and elemental concentrations (B, Mg, K, Ca, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Sr, Mo, Cd and Pb) of grain, husk and straw samples were determined. Significant differences were found between treatment groups, including increases in δ 15 N values of 0.6 ± 0.5‰ (average ± 1σ for five replicate plots) in grain, and 1.1 ± 0.4‰ in straw due to seaweed fertilisation. Elevated concentrations of Sr in grain and husk samples (factors of 1.2–1.4) indicate the geographic tracer 87 Sr/ 86 Sr may also be affected. Fertilisation with seaweed thus needs to be considered for archaeological interpretations of chemical and isotopic compositions of crop and skeletal material for accurate palaeodietary and provenance reconstructions, particularly in coastal areas. Further implications of these results for studies concerning the effects of sea spray, radiocarbon-dating, and for dietary reconstructions using trace elements are also identified.",
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T2 - Implications for analyses of archaeological skeletal remains

AU - Blanz, Magdalena

AU - Ascough, Philippa

AU - Mainland, Ingrid

AU - Martin, Peter

AU - Taggart, Mark A.

AU - Dieterich, Burkart

AU - Wishart, John

AU - Sayle, Kerry L.

AU - Raab, Andrea

AU - Feldmann, Jörg

N1 - This research was partially funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland's Workforce in the Scotland 2014–2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme. The contribution of staff from the University of the Highlands and Islands' Agronomy Institute and the James Hutton Institute to the field trial was supported by Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) funding from the Scottish Government. GPS geolocation was performed by archaeologists of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA). Stable isotope ratio measurements were performed at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), East Kilbride, and elemental composition analysis was performed at the Trace Element Speciation Laboratory, Aberdeen (TESLA). MB would like to thank IM's family for their help collecting and storing the decomposing seaweed.

PY - 2019/4

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N2 - Fertilisation with animal manure has been shown to affect crop chemical and isotopic composition, indicating that if manuring effects are not taken into account, there is a risk of overestimating consumer trophic levels in palaeodietary studies. The effect of fertilisation with seaweed, a common fertiliser in the past in coastal areas, has been the subject of several hypotheses, but until now has not been studied in this particular context. In this study the impact of fertilising bere, an ancient type of Scottish barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), with 25 t/ha and 50 t/ha seaweed, in comparison to a modern commercial mineral fertiliser and to no fertilisation, was investigated in a field trial on the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Stable isotope ratios (δ 13 C and δ 15 N) and elemental concentrations (B, Mg, K, Ca, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Sr, Mo, Cd and Pb) of grain, husk and straw samples were determined. Significant differences were found between treatment groups, including increases in δ 15 N values of 0.6 ± 0.5‰ (average ± 1σ for five replicate plots) in grain, and 1.1 ± 0.4‰ in straw due to seaweed fertilisation. Elevated concentrations of Sr in grain and husk samples (factors of 1.2–1.4) indicate the geographic tracer 87 Sr/ 86 Sr may also be affected. Fertilisation with seaweed thus needs to be considered for archaeological interpretations of chemical and isotopic compositions of crop and skeletal material for accurate palaeodietary and provenance reconstructions, particularly in coastal areas. Further implications of these results for studies concerning the effects of sea spray, radiocarbon-dating, and for dietary reconstructions using trace elements are also identified.

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KW - Manuring

KW - Past/prehistoric agriculture

KW - PLANT

KW - N-15

KW - TROPHIC LEVEL

KW - MESOLITHIC-NEOLITHIC CHANGE

KW - ACID DELTA-N-15 VALUES

KW - NATURAL-ABUNDANCE

KW - CEREAL GRAIN

KW - SEA SPRAY

KW - STABLE-ISOTOPE

KW - NITROGEN ISOTOPES

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