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An investigation of the origins of cattle and aurochs deposited in the Early Bronze Age barrows at Gayhurst and Irthlingborough.

Towers, Jaqueline; Montgomery, Janet; Evans, Jane; Jay, Mandy; Pearson, Mike Parker. 2010 An investigation of the origins of cattle and aurochs deposited in the Early Bronze Age barrows at Gayhurst and Irthlingborough. Journal of Archaeological Sciences, 37 (3). 508-515. 10.1016/j.jas.2009.10.012

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Abstract/Summary

Very large assemblages of animal bones found in association with prehistoric human burials are a rare feature in British archaeology. In Central England, two Early Bronze Age barrows at Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire and Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire contain remarkably large quantities of cattle (Bos taurus) remains. At Irthlingborough, at least 185 skulls with smaller numbers of mandibles, shoulder blades and pelves were found together with a small number of skeletal elements from aurochs (Bos primigenius). In contrast, the remains from Gayhurst are dominated by the limb bones from an estimated 300 animals. This study employed strontium, oxygen and carbon isotope ratio analyses of cattle tooth enamel from both sites to investigate the diversity of the animals’ origins and provide insight into Early Bronze Age husbandry practices. Strontium results suggest that most of the cattle included in this study were of local origin. However, for each site, one of the animals investigated was born remotely, most likely in western Britain. A second Gayhurst animal may have been born in a region of chalk rather than the local Jurassic sediments. This study has shown that intra-tooth oxygen isotope ratio analysis results can provide a clear seasonal framework with which to evaluate the temporal variation of other intra-tooth isotope ratio data. The potential to determine season of birth from oxygen data has also been demonstrated, providing that the sample size is sufficiently large. None of the three isotope ratio analyses differentiated between the aurochs and domestic cattle at Irthlingborough.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1016/j.jas.2009.10.012
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 05 Jan 2010 11:03
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/8514

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