James H. Barrett

James H. Barrett
Norwegian University of Science and Technology | NTNU · Department of Archaeology and Cultural History (IAK)

PhD

About

102
Publications
51,109
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Introduction
I study ecological globalisation. My background is in medieval, historical and environmental archaeology, with special interests in the trade of fish, furs and ivory. I am particularly drawn to the complex links between rural and Indigenous producers of the north and (often distant) urban consumers, and their implications. Thus I am also interested in the construction of local identities and the social, economic and ecological consequences of resource depletion and/or sustainability.
Additional affiliations
September 1999 - June 2007
The University of York
Position
  • Lecturer and Senior Lecturer

Publications

Publications (102)
Article
This paper explores the past and potential contribution of archaeology to marine historical ecology. The primary focus is European fishing of marine and diadromous taxa, with global comparisons highlighting the wider applicability of archaeological approaches. The review illustrates how study of excavated fish bones, otoliths and shells can inform...
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The impacts of early ecological globalisation may have had profound economic and environmental consequences for human settlements and animal populations. Here, we review the extent of such historical impacts by investigating the medieval trade of walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) ivory. We use an interdisciplinary approach including chaîne op era...
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Mountain passes have played a key role in past mobility , facilitating transhumance, intra-regional travel and long-distance exchange. Current global warming has revealed an example of such a pass at Lendbreen, Norway. Artefacts exposed by the melting ice indicate usage from c. AD 300-1500, with a peak in activity c. AD 1000 during the Viking Age-a...
Chapter
This chapter addresses the chronology, causes and consequences of the use of walrus ivory for both craft-working and high art in medieval Europe. It documents the shifting roles, popularity, and value of this raw material, from the 9th to 15th centuries CE. It ascertains the probable sources from which walrus ivory came, reconstructs the networks t...
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Mediaeval walrus hunting in Iceland and Greenland-driven by Western European demand for ivory and walrus hide ropes-has been identified as an important pre-modern example of ecological globalization. By contrast, the main origin of walrus ivory destined for eastern European markets, and then onward trade to Asia, is assumed to have been Arctic Russ...
Preprint
Understanding the historical emergence and growth of long-range fisheries can provide fundamental insights into the timing of ecological impacts and the development of coastal communities during the last millennium. Whole genome sequencing approaches can improve such understanding by determining the origin of archaeological fish specimens that may...
Preprint
Marine resource consumption has been a key component in European diet and culture since the Middle Ages, when fish consumption increased dramatically. Yet, the early origins of marine industries and the long-term ecological consequences of historical and contemporary fisheries remain debated. The Baltic Sea was home to the first “industrial” fisher...
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Climate change has been implicated in an increased number of distributional shifts of marine species during the last century. Nonetheless, it is unclear whether earlier climatic fluctuations had similar impacts. We use ancient DNA to investigate the long-term spawning distribution of the Northeast Arctic cod ( skrei ) which performs yearly migratio...
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Glacial archaeology is a developing field, brought on by climate change. High mountain ice is melting, which has led to the exposure of artifacts in North America, Mongolia, the Alps, and Scandinavia. The highest number of finds and sites in the world are reported from Innlandet County, Norway. We present our methods of finding and documenting glac...
Article
Genomic assignment tests can provide important diagnostic biological characteristics, such as population of origin or ecotype. Yet, assignment tests often rely on moderate- to high-coverage sequence data that can be difficult to obtain for fields such as molecular ecology and ancient DNA. We have developed a novel approach that efficiently assigns...
Preprint
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Genomic assignment tests can provide important diagnostic biological characteristics, such as population of origin or ecotype. In ancient DNA research, such characters can provide further information on population continuity, evolution, climate change, species migration, or trade, depending on archaeological context. Yet, assignment tests often rel...
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Ancient DNA (aDNA) approaches have been successfully used to infer the long-term impacts of climate change, domestication, and human exploitation in a range of terrestrial species. Nonetheless, studies investigating such impacts using aDNA in marine species are rare. Atlantic cod ( Gadus morhua ), is an economically important species that has exper...
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The field of ancient DNA is dominated by studies focusing on terrestrial vertebrates. This taxonomic bias limits our understanding of endogenous DNA preservation for species with different bone physiology, such as teleost fish. Teleost bone is typically brittle, porous, lightweight, and is characterized by a lack of bone remodeling during growth. A...
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In the context of global warming, ice patches are increasingly important foci of high-elevation archaeology. Langfonne in Jotunheimen, central southern Norway, is uniquely suited to provide a window onto site formation processes and taphonomy in this novel archaeological setting. Here the site record from systematic survey includes the largest numb...
Preprint
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The field of ancient DNA is taxonomically dominated by studies focusing on mammals. This taxonomic bias limits our understanding of endogenous DNA preservation for vertebrate taxa with different bone physiology, such as teleost fish. In contrast to most mammalian bone, teleost bone is typically brittle, porous, lightweight and is characterized by a...
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Fish are the most diverse group of vertebrates, fulfill important ecological functions and are of significant economic interest for aquaculture and wild fisheries. Advances in DNA extraction methods, sequencing technologies and bioinformatic applications have advanced genomic research for non‐model organisms, allowing the field of fish ancient DNA...
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Horse domestication revolutionized warfare and accelerated travel, trade, and the geographic expansion of languages. Here, we present the largest DNA time series for a non-human organism to date, including genome-scale data from 149 ancient animals and 129 ancient genomes (≥1-fold coverage), 87 of which are new. This extensive dataset allows us to...
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Horses are the most common grave goods found in Icelandic Viking Age graves. Horse skeletons have previously been sexed based on pelvis shape and the presence of canine teeth in male horses over 4-5 years of age. Morphological data has shown that all horses from Icelandic burials that were amenable to sexing were male. Yet the use of morphological...
Chapter
Easily preserved and high in energy, butter was a reliable foodstuff during the medieval period for northerners vulnerable to short growing seasons and occasional crop failure. This chapter assesses the value of butter as commodity-money in late Viking Age and medieval Orkney, and advances new methodologies to aid the identification of perishable f...
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The importance of the Atlantic walrus ivory trade for the colonization, peak, and collapse of the medieval Norse colonies on Greenland has been extensively debated. Nevertheless, no studies have directly traced medieval European ivory back to distinct Arctic populations of walrus. Analysing the entire mitogenomes of 37 archaeological specimens from...
Preprint
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The search for walruses as a source of ivory –a popular material for making luxury art objects in medieval Europe– played a key role in the historic Scandinavian expansion throughout the Arctic region. Most notably, the colonization, peak and collapse of the medieval Norse colony of Greenland have all been attributed to the proto-globalization of i...
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The melting of perennial ice patches globally is uncovering a fragile record of alpine activity, especially hunting and the use of mountain passes. When rescued by systematic fieldwork (glacial archaeology), this evidence opens an unprecedented window on the chronology of high-elevation activity. Recent research in Jotunheimen and surrounding mount...
Chapter
This article discusses major developments in British marine (and to a lesser degree freshwater) fishing and fish trade between ad 1050 and 1550. Much information derives from study of fish bones recovered by archaeological excavation. Historical evidence is also important, as is information regarding human diet based on stable isotope analysis of s...
Article
Knowledge of the range and chronology of historic trade and long-distance transport of natural resources is essential for determining the impacts of past human activities on marine environments. However, the specific biological sources of imported fauna are often difficult to identify, in particular if species have a wide spatial distribution and l...
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Full-text available
Knowledge of the range and chronology of historic trade and long-distance transport of natural resources is essential for determining the impacts of past human activities on marine environments. However, the specific biological sources of imported fauna are often difficult to identify, in particular if species have a wide spatial distribution and l...
Article
The feasibility of genome-scale studies from archaeological material remains critically dependent on the ability to access endogenous, authentic DNA. In the majority of cases, this represents a few percent of the DNA extract, at most. A number of specific pre-extraction protocols for bone powder aimed to improve ancient DNA recovery before library...
Book
Quests for cod, herring and other sea fish had profound impacts on medieval Europe. This interdisciplinary book combines history, archaeology and zooarchaeology to discover the chronology, causes and consequences of these fisheries. It crosscuts traditional temporal and geographical boundaries, ranging from the Migration Period through the Middle A...
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A comparison of ancient DNA (single-nucleotide poly-morphisms) and carbon and nitrogen stable isotope evidence suggests that stored cod provisions recovered from the wreck of the Tudor warship Mary Rose, which sank in the Solent, southern England, in 1545, had been caught in northern and transatlantic waters such as the northern North Sea and the f...
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Davide Zori & Jesse Byock (ed.). Viking archaeology in Iceland. Mosfell Archaeological Project (Cursor Mundi 20). xxvi+254 pages, 124 colour and b&w illustrations, 28 tables. 2014. Turnhout: Brepols; 978-2-503-54400-7 paperback €120. - Volume 89 Issue 343 - James Barrett
Article
Full-text available
Identifying people of exotic origins with isotopes depends upon finding isotopic attributes that are inconsistent with the indigenous population. This task is seldom straightforward and may vary with physical geography, through time, and with cultural practices. Isotopes and trace elements were measured in four Viking Age (8th to 10th centuries A.D...
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The growth of medieval cities in Northern Europe placed new demands on food supply, and led to the import of fish from increasingly distant fishing grounds. Quantitative analysis of cod remains from London provides revealing insight into the changing patterns of supply that can be related to known historical events and circumstances. In particular...
Article
This study presents the first sulphur isotope data of modern and archaeological cod (Gadus morhua) bone collagen, undertaken to identify large-scale spatial variability of significance as both baseline values for studies of human diet and a potential variable in isotope-based studies of fish trading. Collagen was extracted from modern and archaeolo...
Book
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Quoygrew - a settlement of farmers and fishers on the island of Westray in Orkney - was continuously occupied from the tenth century until 1937. Focusing on the archaeology of its first 700 years, this volume explores how 'small worlds' both reflected and impacted the fundamental pan-European watersheds of the Middle Ages: the growth of population,...
Chapter
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Seasonal sea-surface temperature (SST) variability during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), which corresponds to the height of Viking exploration (800–1200 AD), was estimated using oxygen isotope ratios (δ18O) obtained from high-resolution samples micromilled from archaeological shells of the European limpet, Patella vulgata. Our findings illustr...
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Although recent historical ecology studies have extended quantitative knowledge of eastern Baltic cod (Gadus morhua) exploitation back as far as the 16th century, the historical origin of the modern fishery remains obscure. Widespread archaeological evidence for cod consumption around the eastern Baltic littoral emerges around the 13th century, thr...
Article
Archaeological fish bones reveal increases in marine fish utilisation in Northern and Western Europe beginning in the 10th and 11th centuries AD. We use stable isotope signatures from 300 archaeological cod (Gadus morhua) bones to determine whether this sea fishing revolution resulted from increased local fishing or the introduction of preserved fi...
Article
A number of recent studies of the UK coastal environment have assessed the 14C marine radiocarbon reservoir effect (MRE) via quantification of ΔR values for several periods throughout the Holocene using marine mollusc shells. However, none have employed fish bone as the marine sample, and the importance of being able to use this material as a relia...
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The grass-covered top of the Brough of Deerness, a small sea stack in Orkney, Scotland, holds the remains of a substantial Viking Age settlement and associated chapel. The chapel was excavated by Christopher Morris in the 1970s and discovered to have two phases, one above and one below an Anglo-Saxon coin minted between 959 and 975. New excavations...
Article
The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) spawns in the Sargasso Sea and depends on the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift to complete its larval migration to the coasts of Europe and North Africa. The spatial distribution of the fish was very different in historic and prehistoric times in comparison to the present. A database of the spatial and temporal...
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This paper addresses the cause of the Viking episode in the approved Viking manner - head-on, reviewing and dismissing technical, environmental demographic, economic, political and ideological prime movers. The author develops the theory that a bulge of young males in Scandinavia set out to get treasure to underpin their chances of marriage and a s...
Article
The spatial distribution of the European freshwater eel (Anguilla anguilla) was very different in historic and prehistoric times in comparison to the present. A database of the spatial and temporal distribution of eel remains in archaeological and palaeontological sites is presented and used to assess the spatial distribution of populations from th...
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This paper explores the potential of stable isotope analysis to identify the approximate region of catch of cod by analysing bones from medieval settlements in northern and western Europe. It measures the δ13C and δ15N values of cod bone collagen from medieval control samples collected from sites around Arctic Norway, the North Sea, the Kattegat an...
Article
In early 2005 a particularly severe storm exposed human bones on the foreshore immediately east of the ruins of St Thomas' Kirk. The subsequent excavation recovered 14 individual inhumations. The skeletons exhibited a relatively high number of pathological conditions and evidence of a diet that included fish, meat and dairy products. Isotopic analy...
Article
Climate archives contained in shells of the European limpet, Patella vulgata, from Viking shell middens can potentially provide much needed information about seasonality in mid-latitude coastal areas prior to the complicating effects of industrialization. P. vulgata shells are common in the stratified middens accumulated by the Viking inhabitants o...