Reassessing the Diet of the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in West Scotland

Bownes, J. , Ascough, P. , Cook, G. , Murray, I., Sayle, K. and Bonsall, C. (2015) Reassessing the Diet of the Mesolithic-Neolithic Transition in West Scotland. 21st Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, Glasgow, UK, 2-5 Sep 2015.

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Abstract

Human palaeo-dietary investigations using stable isotope analysis is a well-established technique in archaeological science. When reconstructing past diet using δ13C, δ15N and δ34S isotope analyses, the measurement of a geographically and temporally comparable isotopic baseline is important for accurate data interpretation. Dietary habits are typically determined by comparing isotope measurements of food remains with human bone collagen values, assuming certain trophic level shifts, thereby allowing the percentage of marine resources in the diet to be estimated. Thereafter, radiocarbon ages can be corrected for the marine reservoir effect. Traditionally, faunal baselines include a variety of terrestrial, freshwater and marine bone collagen isotope measurements, however baselines are often sparse and geographically unrepresentative. Furthermore, important dietary information from plants, fruit, nuts and shellfish are omitted because the nature of these resources means they do not survive in the archaeological record. Research conducted at SUERC focuses on reassessing the diet and timing of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Scotland. The timing of the transition between these two periods is not particularly well defined, and the nature of the transition (from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to subsistence farming) means that dietary habits changed dramatically. We present new δ13C, δ15N and δ34S data from archaeological and modern fauna which represents a faunal baseline from which more accurate assertions about human diet can be inferred. This work will be expanded to include a full range of data from flora and fauna across Scotland, built into a database for the purpose of recalibrating radiocarbon ages from any time period.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Status:Published
Refereed:No
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bownes, Dr Jessica and Cook, Professor Gordon and Ascough, Dr Philippa and Sayle, Dr Kerry
Authors: Bownes, J., Ascough, P., Cook, G., Murray, I., Sayle, K., and Bonsall, C.
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre

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