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The University of Southampton
ArchaeologyPart of Humanities

Research project: Isotope analysis of well dated cattle and red deer bones from Swiss Neolithic lakeshore settlements as indicator for herd management, dairying, environment and human impact

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This collaboration between the Universities of Basel, Bristol and Southampton, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, aims to reconstruct changing cattle herding patterns in the period 2800 BC to 4300 BC using cattle teeth from the well dated deposits of Swiss lake village settlements. Isotopic approaches, including laser ablation Sr isotope analysis, can track cattle movement on a seasonal basis and reveal changing patterns of herding and transhumance in response to a changing environment and innovations such as the introduction of dairying.

This project (April 2013 to March 2016) aims at studying the changing strategies of animal management, from herding and dairying to hunting as represented in the archaeology of the Swiss lakeshore dwellings.

These dwellings - dated between 4300 and 800 BC - have the richest and most detailed archaeological record in Europe, and provide a unique background for the examination of models of subsistence, intensification, cultural adaptations to climatic changes and human impact to the prehistoric environment.

Waterlogged deposits have preserved many organic remains such as wood, seeds, animal dung; and hundreds of thousands of animal bones have been recovered. Based on dendro-chronology the archaeological finds can be dated precisely at least to decades but even to single years, allowing a longitudinal study with unprecedented time resolution.

We focus our research on the eastern area of Switzerland, especially on the lakeshore settlement of Arbon Bleiche 3 at Lake Constance and sites in the lower Lake Zurich region, where vast and well documented archaeozoological collections cover a long chronological sequence of settlements in a small and clearly defined region.

Our research questions focus on cattle economy and cattle management on one hand and human impact on the red deer population on the other. We explore these using isotope analysis

If you would like to find out more about this research project please click here.

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