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Article contents

Seaweed-eating sheep and the adaptation of husbandry in Neolithic Orkney: new insights from Skara Brae

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 August 2019

Marie Balasse*
Affiliation:
UMR 7209 ‘Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques, Environnements’, CNRS/MNHN, 55 Rue Buffon, Paris 75005, France
Anne Tresset
Affiliation:
UMR 7209 ‘Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques, Environnements’, CNRS/MNHN, 55 Rue Buffon, Paris 75005, France
Gaël Obein
Affiliation:
EA 2367 Laboratoire commun de Métrologie LNE-CNAM, CNAM, 61 Rue du Landy, La Plaine Saint-Denis 93210, France
Denis Fiorillo
Affiliation:
UMR 7209 ‘Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques, Environnements’, CNRS/MNHN, 55 Rue Buffon, Paris 75005, France
Henri Gandois
Affiliation:
UMR 8215 ‘Trajectoires—De la sédentarisation à l'Etat’, Maison de l'Archéologie et de l'Ethnologie, 21 Allée de l'Université, Nanterre 92023, France
*
*Author for correspondence (Email: marie.balasse@mnhn.fr)

Abstract

The Neolithisation of Europe involved socio-economic and biological adaptations to new environments. The use of seaweed as livestock fodder, for example, was key to the introduction of animal husbandry to the Orkney archipelago, c. 3500 cal BC. Using stable isotope analysis of faunal remains from Skara Brae, this study provides new evidence for, and clarifies the chronology of, the adoption of seaweed consumption by sheep. The results show that sheep consumed moderate amounts of seaweed from the moment of their introduction to Orkney—a practice that facilitated the successful spread of the farming lifeways to the most remote areas of Europe.

Type
Research
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2019 

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