Project

ERC-StG– ZooMWest: Zooarchaeology and Mobility in the Western Mediterranean: husbandry production from the Late Bronze Age to the Late Antiquity

Goal: Human survival and success are substantially determined by the ability to move across the landscape and adapt. Consequently, ‘mobility’ is a crucial topic in historical and archaeological research. To overcome the seasonal scarcity of food and the related over-grazing of pastures, it is essential for animal husbandry to move across territories. However, the decision to allow or deny rights of way to mobile people and livestock depends on political judgements. How might these shape animal husbandry production, and society?
The period between the Late Bronze Age and the Late Antiquity in the Western Mediterranean witnessed the development of complex societies with a high territorial component, the Roman conquest, and the decline of the Western Roman Empire. Animal husbandry reflects human decisions regarding the management of resources, and the study of livestock rearing in specific geographical locations is possible through the isotopic analysis of ancient animal teeth. Consequently, we can analyse whether the nucleation of power occurring during the Bronze and Iron Ages, the centralization in Roman times and the later re-fragmentation in Late Antiquity transformed animal husbandry production. Crucially, we can then understand how political systems and decisions shaped human mobility through investigating animal production.
ZooMWest brings together isotopic chemistry, ancient DNA, zooarchaeology and geospatial analysis through four related work packages. Other than elucidating long term debates in archaeology –did transhumance exist in prehistoric Europe?–, this multidisciplinary and innovative project will create an open-access database of strontium and oxygen stable isotopes of the Iberian Peninsula and Italy. This database will enable us to refine geographic provenance to any discipline assessing the origin of matter, including geology, forensic studies, and the alimentary industry, as strontium and oxygen are present in many molecules, including organic tissues.

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Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas
added a research item
The rise of social complexity in the Mediterranean during late prehistory has been the object of many regional studies. The emergence of increasingly complex social hierarchies took place at different paces in different areas around the Mediterranean-e.g. in the Near East, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Iberia, north Africa-but also different tempos within these sub-regions. What were the socioeconomic and political strategies through which these processes were articulated? Did they lead to similar production strategies across the Mediterranean? Are they identifiable in the archaeological record through indicators that are comparable between areas? This session aims to gather specialists working on settlement patterns, material culture, architecture, and bioarchaeology from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Age from the Near East to the Atlantic façade of Iberia to explore the relationship between production and broader indicators of socioeconomic change. Areas of production can include: • Agricultural strategies, e.g. cereal production, processing, and storage; • Zooarchaeological evidence for husbandry strategies and animal size; • Pottery production, e.g. the development and diffusion of standardised forms (cooking vessels, transport vessels, fine tableware). These will be considered in relation to other indicators of socioeconomic organisation, e.g: • Settlement patterns, e.g. concentrated versus diffuse urbanism, site hierarchies; • Early evidence for and characteristics of architectural complexity and the internal organisation of sites. The session aims to facilitate scientific discussion on (1) the effect of socioeconomic systems (analysed here through settlement pattern and architectural characteristics) on production, (2) crop and animal husbandry adaptations in different cultural and environmental contexts. We invite papers of any applicable methods that represent farming practices and land management in the region throughout this period (Chalcolithic to Iron Age). Integrative papers drawing evidence from materials studies, bioarchaeological approaches, survey and field excavations are especially welcome. Organisers Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas (IMF-CSIC, Spain) Angela Trentacoste (University of Oxford, UK) Ariadna Nieto-Espinet (IMF-CSIC, Spain) Silvia Guimarães-Chiarelli (IMF-CSIC, Spain and CIBIO/InBIO,
Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas
added a research item
There are strong interactions between an economic system and its ecological context. In this sense, livestock have been an integral part of human economies since the Neolithic, contributing significantly to the creation and maintenance of agricultural anthropized landscapes. For this reason, in the frame of the ERC-StG project ’ZooMWest’ we collected and analyzed thousands of zooarchaeological data from NE Iberia. By considering these data in comparison with ecological indicators (archaeobotanical remains) and archaeological evidence (settlement characteristics and their distribution) this paper seeks to characterize changes in animal production and the relationship between people, livestock, and their environment. These methods allow for an investigation of the topic at different scales (site, zone, territory) with a broad diachronic perspective, and for consideration of orography and cultural traditions alongside climatic factors. Through this integration of various streams of evidence, we aim to better understand the structure of ancient economic systems and the way they conditioned human decision-making on animal production. Results show a shifting relationship with the territory between the Bronze Age and Late Antiquity, in which market requirements and an economic model with a higher degree of integration increasingly influenced husbandry strategies. These processes are reflected in changes in land use and forms of territorial occupation, although along different rhythms and trajectories.
Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas
added 2 research items
Dental Microwear Analysis (DMA) is currently used for obtaining information on diet of different animal species. Low-magnification Microwear Dental Analysis (LMDA) is a DMA technique based on the identification of microfeatures (pits and scratches) on the tooth enamel surface. During the last decade, Dental Microwear Texture Analysis (DMTA) has gained momentum as an alternative quantitative methodology thus offering more reliable and replicable results and allowing highlighting subtle dietary differences. In this paper we explore the capacities of LMDA and DMTA for discriminating flock managing strategies. Two groups of sheep that were fed differently during the last month of life, one roaming on rangeland, combining Mediterranean forest and meadows and the other on grassland were analysed. While LMDA did not allow discriminating both groups, DMTA showed significant differences between them. DMTA revealed good predictive capacity for the correct classification of the individuals grazing on grasslands, and a poor one for the ones grazing on rangeland, as some of them overlapped with the grassland group. The limitation for correctly classifying roaming individuals is probably explained by the variable composition of plants on rangeland. We used the classificatory rule obtained from the experimental program to classify two archaeological collections of caprines (sheep and goats), from two Iron Age sites from the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula: The Iberian site of El Turó de la Font de la Canya and the Greek colony of Empúries. Finally, we compared the results with those obtained in previous studies using low-magnification microwear techniques (LMDA). In this way, we show the potential of DMTA for discriminating between animal feeding strategies in the past.
Mobility is crucial in animal husbandry to overcome scarcity of food and the related over-grazing of pastures. It is also essential to reduce the inbreeding rate of animal populations, which is known to have a negative impact on fertility and productivity. Complex societies with a strong territorial component developed during the Iron Age in Southern France and across Europe. The impact of this phenomenon over animal husbandry is not yet fully understood, but a general small size of animals is attested in different parts of Europe at that time. This paper presents the main zooarchaeological results (main domesticates species representation, mortality profiles, osteometry, pathologies) of two major Iron Age sites in Languedoc – La Monédière (Bessan) and Lattara (Lattes). In addition, the strontium isotopic ratios (⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr) of 44 sheep and 16 cattle teeth from these sites are provided together with some baseline isotopic data. La Monédière and Lattara represent good case studies to characterise the geographic range of meat provisioning in coastal urban centres in the mid Iron Age (6th–4th c. BC). Their archaeological record enables us to analyse whether different species may have had different mobility patterns. In addition the strontium ratios of 4 Roman cattle from these sites were analysed for comparative purposes. The results are contextualised with other archaeological and zooarchaeological data from Languedoc and neighbour Catalonia, and suggest that the socio-political context has a major influence on animal production.
Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas
added 3 research items
This paper presents the results of a pilot study using dental microwear analysis on 23 sheep and goat teeth dated to the 6th century BC from the Iron Age site of El Turó Font de la Canya (Barcelona, Spain). This study aimed to reconstruct livestock management practices and landscape use. The dental microwear pattern indicates that sheep and goats could have been grazing in the same area where vegetation was composed of shrubs, bushes and non-graminaceous plants on an eroded landscape, although additional supplies of fodder cannot be excluded. This scenario is compatible with the archaeological and palaeoenvironmental data which suggest a possibly increased territoriality, land degradation and an increase of woodland clearance during Iron Age in the North-east of the Iberian Peninsula. Furthermore, we applied two recent microwear approaches which provide more information about mortality events and the possibility of distinguishing between an intensive and extensive management. This paper demonstrates how this method can be used to better understand animal husbandry practices and landscape use in Late Prehistory.
In this work we present a dental microwear analysis on sheep and goats from two sites of the Empordà region (north-eastern of the Iberian Peninsula) : the Greek comptoir of Empúries and the Iberian town of Ullastret. This study revealed a high intake of graminaceous plants in both sites and in the two chronological phases studied. This pattern is compatible with a livestock grazing on wetlands. On a more specific level, this analysis also revealed some differences in flock’s feeding between Ullastret and Empúries.
Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas
added 2 research items
Animal mobility is a common strategy to overcome scarcity of food and the related over-grazing of pastures. It is also essential to reduce the inbreeding rate of animal populations, which is known to have a negative impact on fertility and productivity. The present paper shows the geographic range of sheep provisioning in different phases of occupation at the Iron Age site of Turó de la Font de la Canya (7th to 3rd centuries BC). Strontium isotope ratios from 34 archaeological sheep and goat enamel, two archaeological bones and 14 modern tree leaves are presented. The isotopic results suggest that sheep and goats consumed at the site were reared locally (within a few kilometres radius) during the whole period of occupation. The paper discusses the isotopic results in light of the socio-political structure of this period, as complex, strongly territorial societies developed during the Iron Age in the north-east Iberian Peninsula.
Domestication of wild cattle, sheep, and pigs began a process of body size diminution. In most of Western Europe this process continued across prehistory and was not reversed until the Roman period. However, in Italy, an increase in livestock body size occurred during the Iron Age, earlier than the Western provinces. In order to better understand the nature and timing of this early increase in animal size, this paper presents a detailed regional study of taxonomic abundance and biometric data from zooarchaeological assemblages recovered from the Po and Venetian–Friulian Plains in northern Italy. Our results demonstrate a high level of regionality in the choice of species exploited, with husbandry systems focused on different domesticates, as well as regional differences in animal size. However, despite significant variation in species frequencies, settlement structure, and epigraphic tradition, all areas with sufficient data demonstrate similar significant changes in livestock body size. Cattle and sheep increased incrementally in size prior to the Roman conquest in all regions considered; surprisingly, pigs continued to decrease in size throughout later prehistory. The incremental pace and pan-regional character of the size change in cattle and sheep suggests an internally motivated phenomenon rather than herd replacement with a new larger population, as might follow colonisation or conquest. The divergence in size trends for bovids and suids suggests a noteworthy change in cattle and sheep herding practices during the Iron Age or final centuries of the Bronze Age, in contrast with greater continuity in pig management. Our analysis provides a thorough zooarchaeological synthesis for northern Italy and, for the first time, demonstrates that both cattle and sheep increased in size outside of Roman territory well before the conquest of this area. This study offers a basis for future chemical analyses (DNA, isotopes), which will further investigate the cause(s) of livestock size changes in northern Italy.
Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas
added an update
ZooMWest has now a live webpage! https://zoomwest11.wixsite.com/zoomwest
We will post updates on it. You can also follow our Facebook profile (look for 'ZooMWest')
Best regards,
Silvia
 
Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas
added 2 research items
The first millennium in Western Europe witnessed the development of metallurgy and an overall increase in social complexity, which was accompanied by the building of oppida and fortifications in most territories. This work presents an up-to-date review of the relative frequencies of the main domesticates and cattle biometry from Southern England, Catalonia (North-Eastern Spain), Tunisia and Portugal, dating from the first millennium BC to the Roman period. The macro-regional perspective reveals common trends after the introduction of metal technology in such different ecosystems as England, Catalonia and Tunisia, The analysis of animal mobility by the means of strontium isotopes recovered from cattle teeth in England suggest that this is the key to understand –at least partially– these general trends.
Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas
added a project goal
Human survival and success are substantially determined by the ability to move across the landscape and adapt. Consequently, ‘mobility’ is a crucial topic in historical and archaeological research. To overcome the seasonal scarcity of food and the related over-grazing of pastures, it is essential for animal husbandry to move across territories. However, the decision to allow or deny rights of way to mobile people and livestock depends on political judgements. How might these shape animal husbandry production, and society?
The period between the Late Bronze Age and the Late Antiquity in the Western Mediterranean witnessed the development of complex societies with a high territorial component, the Roman conquest, and the decline of the Western Roman Empire. Animal husbandry reflects human decisions regarding the management of resources, and the study of livestock rearing in specific geographical locations is possible through the isotopic analysis of ancient animal teeth. Consequently, we can analyse whether the nucleation of power occurring during the Bronze and Iron Ages, the centralization in Roman times and the later re-fragmentation in Late Antiquity transformed animal husbandry production. Crucially, we can then understand how political systems and decisions shaped human mobility through investigating animal production.
ZooMWest brings together isotopic chemistry, ancient DNA, zooarchaeology and geospatial analysis through four related work packages. Other than elucidating long term debates in archaeology –did transhumance exist in prehistoric Europe?–, this multidisciplinary and innovative project will create an open-access database of strontium and oxygen stable isotopes of the Iberian Peninsula and Italy. This database will enable us to refine geographic provenance to any discipline assessing the origin of matter, including geology, forensic studies, and the alimentary industry, as strontium and oxygen are present in many molecules, including organic tissues.