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Transhumance in the Early Neolithic? Carbon and oxygen isotope insights into sheep husbandry at Arene Candide, Northern Italy

Karkuleviciute, K and Gron, KJ and Patterson, WP and Panelli, C and Rossi, S and Timsic, S and Gröcke, DR and Maggi, R and Rowley-Conwy, P (2021) 'Transhumance in the Early Neolithic? Carbon and oxygen isotope insights into sheep husbandry at Arene Candide, Northern Italy.', Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports .


Vertical transhumance is historically known as an animal management practice in the Mediterranean that mitigates the risk of overgrazing and unpalatable pastures. It has long been debated whether the practice developed together with the spread of the Neolithic in Europe or if it was adopted later. This study explores the evidence for transhumant pastoralism at Arene Candide, Northern Italy during the Neolithic. We examine the carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ 18O) isotope values of sequentially sampled sheep teeth from the Early and Middle Neolithic layers at Arene Candide. The pattern of reduced δ 18O profile amplitude as well as inverse cyclical isotope variation characterised by lower δ 13 C during the summer season suggest that some of the sheep analysed were moved to higher altitude pasture areas during the summer months. The dating of the analysed samples suggest that small-scale transhumance occurred at Arene Candide during the Cardial phase (5400 – 5300 BC). Because the sample size in this study is small, it remains difficult to project transhumant pastoralism as a widespread practice in the Mediterranean region. Further studies of this kind will provide a greater understanding of the development and use of vertical transhumance.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:© 2021 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:23 October 2021
Date deposited:04 November 2021
Date of first online publication:2021
Date first made open access:No date available

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