Jun. 22nd, 2012

ossamenta: Scientist clones dinosaur for T-rex steaks (Science)
Yesterday I and two colleagues went to the Integrating zooarchaeology and stable isotopes-conference in Cambridge. I had to get up very early, but it was worth it. About half of the talks were relevant to me, even if the practical applications may be beyond my normal budgets.

Of particular interest to me were:
- the fallow deer project, on (among other topics) the introduction of fallow deer in Europe. The isotope studies are only beginning, but there are evidence for first generation imports at the Roman villa in Fishbourne on the south coast of England.

- Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of animals and grains from the Danebury Iron Age hillfort and from surrounding sites suggest that the simple model of surrounding producer sites and a high status central consumer site must be revised. Such a model would result in different isotope values on the producer sites, reflecting the different local geology, and wide-ranging isotope values on the consumer site encompassing all isotope values from the producer sites. The research is ongoing, but since the isotope values on all sites were very similar, it may indicate a more complex trade and exchange system.

- Pigs from medieval urban sites are usually interpreted as being ”backyard pigs”, fed on scraps and kept for meat. Several contemporary written sources confirm the presence of pigs kept in urban environments, and so far little time and money has been spent trying to contradict this. However, isotope analysis on pig bones from Medieval York indicate that the vast majority of the sampled animals (N:23) were fed the same protein-low diet as sheep from York and pigs from the nearby village Wharram Percy, suggesting that they were kept on pannage in rural areas. Obviously more research (and samples!) are needed but it is apparent that medieval (and Roman? Saxon? Post-medieval?) pig keeping was more complex than what zooarchaeologist normally have assumed.

- Strontium values on cattle teeth from the Late Iron Age/Roman village Owslebury, near Winchester, showed three different ranges of isotope values, indicating three different origin regions for these cattle. Unfortunately we only got to see the strontium map of entire Britain, and to ”accurately” pinpoint possible origin regions for these animals you need a much more detailed map, as small pockets of different geologies can be found within sections of the dominant geology in a particular region. Again, more research is needed.

As you can see, there are several people who’s future Ph.D.s and research ideas I will keep an eye out for. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find personal research sites for these topics, but if any blog reader is interested, name and contact details should be found on the conference webpage.

It was a good day out, and I could finally visit the archaeology and anthropology museum, which was closed for rebuilding the other times I’ve been to Cambridge. They had one of the Star Carr antler frontlets!!! If only I had brought my camera…

Interestingly, the gender ratio on the conference participants skewed heavily to women. About 80% women! Seriously, where are the male archaeologists? Are they not interested in isotopes or in zooarchaeology? I knew environmental archaeology in Britain is predominantly female, but I didn't expect laboratory archaeology to be the same. I'd guess that British archaeology as a whole would be at least 40-60% either way, but what on earth are the men specialising in/researching then?

If I have got anything wrong in my write-ups, please let me know.


ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)

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