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Provenancing Archaeological Wool Textiles from Medieval Northern Europe by Light Stable Isotope Analysis (δ13C, δ15N, δ2H)

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JournalPLoS ONE
DateAccepted/In press - 10 Oct 2016
DatePublished (current) - 20 Oct 2016
Issue number10
Volume11
Number of pages27
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

We investigate the origin of archaeological wool textiles preserved by anoxic waterlogging from seven medieval archaeological deposits in north-western Europe (c. 700-1600 AD), using geospatial patterning in carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N) and non-exchangeable hydrogen (δ2H) composition of modern and ancient sheep proteins. δ13C, δ15N and δ2H values from archaeological wool keratin (n = 83) and bone collagen (n = 59) from four sites were interpreted with reference to the composition of modern sheep wool from the same regions. The isotopic composition of wool and bone collagen samples clustered strongly by settlement; inter-regional relationships were largely parallel in modern and ancient samples, though landscape change was also significant. Degradation in archaeological wool samples, examined by elemental and amino acid composition, was greater in samples from Iceland (Reykholt) than in samples from north-east England (York, Newcastle) or northern Germany (Hessens). A nominal assignment approach was used to classify textiles into local/non-local at each site, based on maximal estimates of isotopic variability in modern sheep wool. Light element stable isotope analysis provided new insights into the origins of wool textiles, and demonstrates that isotopic provenancing of keratin preserved in anoxic waterlogged contexts is feasible. We also demonstrate the utility of δ2H analysis to understand the location of origin of archaeological protein samples.

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© 2016 von Holstein et al.

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