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Wet feet: developing sulfur isotope provenance methods to identify wetland inhabitants

Lamb, Angela, Chenery, Carolyn, Madgwick, Richard ORCID: and Evans, Jane 2023. Wet feet: developing sulfur isotope provenance methods to identify wetland inhabitants. Royal Society Open Science 10 (10) , 230391. 10.1098/rsos.230391

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The stable isotopes of sulfur provide a distinctive signature for marine proximity and interaction. Exploring coastal proximity has been the principal application of sulfur isotopes in archaeology and palaeoecology, but this deals only with high (greater than 14‰) isotope values, meaning little interpretation has been gained from lower values. Progress has been hindered by issues with biosphere mapping. Air pollution can impact modern landscapes, significantly lowering sulfur isotope baselines, leading to the assumption that modern vegetation-based sulfur maps are not reliable. This research explores the potential of previously undiagnostic low, and often, negative sulfur isotope values for identifying wetland dwellers. Impervious clays that support wetlands are distinctive ecosystems and this study tests the hypothesis that they will produce low isotope values owing to both the underlying substrate and to redox conditions. Primary mapping of targeted areas using modern plants highlights zones with natural negative sulfur values and demonstrates that this constitutes a distinctive wetland signature. Analysis of modern and archaeological fauna demonstrates that these distinctive isotope compositions are transferred into the food chain. These findings propel the interpretative potential of sulfur isotopes forward and add to the growing knowledge to provide means for identifying archaeological humans and animals raised in wetlands.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Publisher: The Royal Society
ISSN: 2054-5703
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 11 October 2023
Date of Acceptance: 14 September 2023
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2023 14:25

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