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The transition to agriculture in south-western Europe: new isotopic insights from Portugal's Atlantic coast

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2016

Eric J. Guiry
Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, 6303 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1, Canada (Email:
Maria Hillier
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig 04103, Germany
Rui Boaventura
Archaeology Centre of the University of Lisbon (UNIARQ), Alameda da Universidade, 1600-214 Lisbon, Portugal Research Centre for Anthropology and Health (CIAS), University of Coimbra, 3001–401 Coimbra, Portugal Science and Technology Foundation, Avenida Dom Carlos I 126, 1249-074 Lisbon, Portugal
Ana Maria Silva
Archaeology Centre of the University of Lisbon (UNIARQ), Alameda da Universidade, 1600-214 Lisbon, Portugal Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, 3000–456 Coimbra, Portugal
Luiz Oosterbeek
Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, Avenida Dr. Aurélio Ribeiro 3, 2300–313 Tomar, Portugal Centro de Geociências, Instituto Terra e Memória, University of Coimbra, 3001–401 Coimbra, Portugal
Tiago Tomé
Research Centre for Anthropology and Health (CIAS), University of Coimbra, 3001–401 Coimbra, Portugal Centro de Geociências, Instituto Terra e Memória, University of Coimbra, 3001–401 Coimbra, Portugal
António Valera
Era – Arqueologia, Calçada Santa Catarina 9, Cruz Quebrada, 1495–705 Oeiras, Portugal
João Luís Cardoso
Archaeology Centre of the University of Lisbon (UNIARQ), Alameda da Universidade, 1600-214 Lisbon, Portugal Universidade Aberta, Rua da Escola Politécnica 141–147, 1269-001 Lisbon, Portugal
Joseph C. Hepburn
Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, 6303 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1, Canada (Email:
Michael P. Richards
Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, 6303 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1, Canada (Email: Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig 04103, Germany


For the past 15 years, a succession of stable isotope studies have documented the abrupt dietary transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in Western and Northern Europe. Portugal, with its Late Mesolithic shell middens and burials apparently coexisting with the earliest Neolithic, further illustrates the nature of that transition. Individuals from Neolithic contexts there had significantly different diets to their Mesolithic counterparts. No evidence was found for a transitional phase between the marine-oriented Mesolithic subsistence regimes and the domesticated, terrestrial Neolithic diet. Two later Neolithic individuals, however, showed evidence for partial reliance on marine or aquatic foods. This raises questions about the possible persistence of marine dietary regimes beyond the Mesolithic period. This article is followed by a brief note by Mary Jackes and David Lubell.

Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2016 

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