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Stable isotopes and dynamic diets: the Mesolithic-Neolithic dietary transition in terrestrial Central Europe

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
DateSubmitted - 13 Jun 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 22 Sep 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 17 Oct 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Dec 2018
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)444-451
Early online date17/10/18
Original languageEnglish


Carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) have made a huge contribution to understanding dietary change across the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. One of the major findings is that marine resources were abandoned with the onset of farming in some coastal regions of Europe. This paper considers the isotopic evidence from terrestrial central Europe, asking whether there was a similar large-scale abandonment of freshwater resources in the early Neolithic. Using isotopic data from the published literature, stable isotope ratios from 66 Mesolithic burials are compared to 274 Neolithic individuals, from France, in-land Belgium and Germany. The results are then modelled via FRUITS (Food Reconstruction Using Isotopic Transferred Signals). The results suggest that despite a drop in fish consumption in the Neolithic, aquatic resources continued to form a small but significant part of the diet (est. 6%). Changes in plant protein consumption are argued to account for a greater proportion of the difference between the Mesolithic and Neolithic δ13C and δ15N isotope ratios. It
is concluded that plants should see greater attention from interpretative approaches in the early Neolithic of central Europe to further our understanding of diet both as a social practice and subsistence activity.

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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

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