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Dogs, ducks, deer and diet : new stable isotope evidence on early Mesolithic dogs from the Vale of Pickering, North-east England.

Schulting, R. J. and Richards, M. P. (2002) 'Dogs, ducks, deer and diet : new stable isotope evidence on early Mesolithic dogs from the Vale of Pickering, North-east England.', Journal of archaeological science., 29 (4). pp. 327-333.


We present new carbon and nitrogen isotope values for two domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and an aquatic bird (Grus grus) from the Mesolithic sites of Star and Seamer Carr, Yorkshire, England. Previous measurements of the carbon isotopes of the Seamer Carr dog were undertaken by Clutton-Brock & Noe-Nygaard (1990). They interpreted the δ13C values as indicating a partly marine diet, and suggested that this was evidence for a seasonal movement of people and their domestic dogs between the coast and the inland Seamer Carr site. Day (1996) questioned this interpretation, arguing that the dog's δ13C values resulted from the consumption of aquatic foods from the ancient lake in the Vale of Pickering, thereby undermining any suggestion of seasonal movements to the coast. Day's argument is based on the assumption that the freshwater lake near Seamer/Star Carr contained δ13C-enriched dissolved CO2 from limestone, resulting in plants and aquatic birds with values mimicking those of a marine system. Here, we re-measure the carbon values of the Seamer Carr dog and provide new data for a dog and an aquatic bird from Star Carr. These new carbon and nitrogen isotope values indicate that the Seamer Carr dog did indeed consume significant amounts of marine protein, while the Star Carr dog did not. The aquatic bird did not have enriched δ13C values as Day predicted, and therefore we found no evidence to support Day's assumptions. Our new data supports the position that there could have been seasonal movements between the coast and inland during the Early Mesolithic at the site of Seamer Carr.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Mesolithic, Dog, Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes, Collagenstar carr, Seamer Carr.
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Record Created:20 Jul 2009 10:50
Last Modified:12 Aug 2010 16:51

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