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Cattle mobility in prehistoric Britain : strontium isotope analysis of cattle teeth from Durrington Walls (Wiltshire, Britain)

Viner, Sarah; Evans, Jane; Albarella, Umberto; Pearson, Mike Parker. 2010 Cattle mobility in prehistoric Britain : strontium isotope analysis of cattle teeth from Durrington Walls (Wiltshire, Britain). Journal of Archaeological Science, 37 (11). 2812-2820. 10.1016/j.jas.2010.06.017

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Abstract/Summary

An important role has been envisaged for cattle during the Neolithic period in Britain based on their prominence within the faunal assemblages of the period as a whole. The relative ease with which cattle can be moved over long distances and the requirement to provide ample pastureland leads almost inescapably to the consideration of prehistoric cattle movement. This paper presents the results of an investigation into the mobility of Late Neolithic cattle at the well-known site of Durrington Walls, Wiltshire. 87Sr/86Sr values from cattle (Bos taurus) teeth were compared to local vegetation samples, well established values from archaeological material and to known geological conditions in order to determine whether individual animals were raised in areas with similar geological conditions as those found at the site (i.e. chalkland), and therefore whether the animals were of allochthonous or autochthonous origin. In total, 13 mandibular molars from Durrington Walls were analysed. Two of the animals included in the study were certainly raised under conditions similar to those found in the vicinity of Durrington Walls, but the other 11 provided signatures so distinct from that found locally that they could not have been raised on chalkland. From the results it is suggested that cattle were brought to the site from a variety of grazing areas in different parts of Britain. The implication of these findings is that the movement of cattle was undertaken during the Late Neolithic, and that in a number of cases substantial distances must have been traversed in order for animals to reach the site. In addition, the study provided valuable information for the interpretation of the site, which attracted people from a variety of regions, probably for ceremonial reasons.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.jas.2010.06.017
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory
ISSN: 0305-4403
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 20 Sep 2010 14:15
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/11165

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