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Norse animal husbandry in liminal environments: Stable isotope evidence from the Scottish North Atlantic Islands

Jones, Jennifer R. and Mulville, Jacqui A. 2018. Norse animal husbandry in liminal environments: Stable isotope evidence from the Scottish North Atlantic Islands. Environmental Archaeology 23 (4) , pp. 338-351. 10.1080/14614103.2018.1439678

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This paper employs δ13C and δ15N analysis of bone collagen to explore animal management at large Norse settlement sites in the liminal environments of the Scottish North Atlantic Islands. The Norse period was a time of social, cultural and economic change; the need to feed an expanding population and the demand for trade meant that domestic stock were a crucial resource. Our results indicate that rearing animals in these challenging insular environments required careful management. At all sites, the diet and movement of domestic cattle and sheep were highly similar and carefully controlled and, despite many of the analysed settlements lying close to the coast, there was no use of shorefront grazing or fodder resources. In contrast, pig rearing strategies varied across the island groups. In the Western Isles pig diets were diverse, indicative of household or ad hoc management, whilst on Orkney all pigs consumed a more restricted diet based primarily on terrestrial protein. A comparison of red deer with domestic stock on the Western Isles indicates that both groups were exploiting similar grazing niches.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
ISSN: 1461-4103
Funders: NERC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 March 2018
Date of Acceptance: 2 February 2018
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2020 10:45

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