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Birds from the water: Reconstructing avian resource use and contribution to diet in prehistoric Scottish Island environments

Best, Julia ORCID: and Mulville, Jacqueline ORCID: 2016. Birds from the water: Reconstructing avian resource use and contribution to diet in prehistoric Scottish Island environments. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 6 , pp. 654-664. 10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.11.024

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This article presents results from a large-scale investigation of bird use in the Scottish Islands. Although avian archaeology has sometimes been overlooked, it has become increasingly clear that birds were a small but often important component of past diets. This is particularly relevant when it is considered that a diverse range of birds, and particularly aquatic birds, thrive in coastal and island locations. Large colonies of gregariously breeding seabirds provided a concentrated resource which could be targeted intensely for both meat and eggs. The use of aquatic birds in the Scottish Islands is therefore integral to holistically understanding diet and resource use in these settings. Aquatic birds would have offered a wide variety of dietary resources to prehistoric populations including meat and eggs, but also oil and fat. The exploitation of seabirds endured throughout Scottish Island prehistoric living from the Mesolithic to the Late Iron Age (and much further beyond), within a picture of resource use that shows both continuity and flexibility in the exploitation of aquatic birds. The acquisition of these resources required the development of several species and habitat-specific fowling techniques that demonstrate in-depth understanding of the avian resources being exploited. Local hunting and targeted fowling trips to more distant locations in the landscape and seascape are indicated by the zooarchaeological data. Exploitation of aquatic birds displays a summer focus but as part of a year-round fowling calendar, whilst preservation for later consumption may provide information on another element of the dietary picture.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Birds; Seabirds; Fowling; Scottish Islands; Avian archaeology; Zooarchaeology
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 2352-409X
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Date of Acceptance: 15 November 2015
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2022 09:36

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