Neolithisation through bone: Stable isotope analysis of human and faunal remains from Syltholm II, Lolland, Denmark

Kurt Joseph Gron, Darren R. Gröcke, Daniel Groß, Peter Rowley-Conwy, Harry Kenneth Robson, Janet Montgomery

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Despite an increasing number of studies, the application of stable sulfur (δ34S) isotope analysis to prehistoric bone collagen remains in its infancy. Conventionally, stable sulfur isotope compositions reflect coastal proximity and the interaction between humans and animals. Here, we undertook stable carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N) and sulfur (δ34S) isotope analysis of human and faunal bone collagen. To understand the local environmental conditions as well as the husbandry regime employed by the first farmers, and investigate where the animals were raised or hunted in non-specific terms, we sampled 50 faunal, including wild and domestic taxa, and human remains from the Late Mesolithic to Early-Middle Neolithic (c. 4860–2310 cal BC) site of Syltholm II on the island of Lolland, Denmark. We show that the wild animals were obtained from multiple locations surrounding the prehistoric Syltholm Fjord, including forested and open landscapes, areas impacted by sea spray and saltmarshes. In contrast, the domestic taxa, especially cattle, were tightly managed for the majority of their lives based on their δ13C and δ15N isotope compositions, though were likely raised in multiple locations, including sea spray-affected areas, saltmarshes and wetlands, based on their δ34S values. The domestic dogs had a broad range of δ13C, δ15N and δ34S values, reflecting the consumption of varying degrees of marine foodstuffs, including animals that were sulfide-derived. Overall, our results contribute to a growing body of evidence for possible cultural and animal husbandry duality during the earliest Neolithic in southern Scandinavia.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104384
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2024

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© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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