An isotopic investigation into the origins and husbandry of Mid-Late Bronze Age cattle from Grimes Graves, Norfolk

Ingrid Mainland, Jacqueline Towers, Janet Montgomery, Jane Evans, Julie Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Bioarchaeological evidence suggests that the site of Grimes Graves, Norfolk, characterised by the remains of several hundred Late Neolithic flint mineshafts, was a permanently settled community with a mixed farming economy during the Mid-Late Bronze Age (c. 1400 BC – c. 800 BC). The aim of this study was to investigate, through isotope ratio analysis (87Sr/86Sr, δ13C and δ18O), the origins and husbandry of Bronze Age cattle (Bos taurus) excavated from a mineshaft known as the “1972 shaft”. Strontium isotope ratios from the molar enamel of ten Grimes Graves cattle were compared with eight modern animals from the Chillingham Wild White cattle herd, Northumberland. The range of 87Sr/86Sr values for the modern cattle with known restricted mobility was low (0.00062) while the values for the Grimes Graves cattle varied much more widely (range = 0.00357) and suggest that at least five of the cattle were not born locally. Two of these animals were likely to have originated at a distance of ≥ 150 km. Intra-tooth δ13C profiles for eight of the Grimes Graves cattle show higher δ13C values compared to those of Early Bronze Age cattle from central England. Most of these profiles also display pronounced shifts in δ13C during the period of enamel formation. One possible interpretation is that the cattle were subject to dietary change resulting from movement between habitats with different vegetation δ13C values. More comparative data, both archaeological and modern, is required to validate this interpretation. The multi-isotope approach employed in this study suggests that certain cattle husbandry and/or landscape management practices may have been widely adopted throughout central Britain during the Mid-Late Bronze Age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-72
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume15
Early online date4 Oct 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

Keywords

  • Strontium
  • Carbon
  • Oxygen
  • Isotope analysis
  • Tooth enamel
  • Intra-tooth sampling
  • Cattle husbandry

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