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Surf'n Turf in Doggerland: Dating, stable isotopes and diet of Mesolithic human remains from the southern North Sea

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Abstract

The North Sea bed host remains of Pleistocene and Early Holocene landscapes that were, mostly gradually, inundated following the last deglaciation. Archaeological remains from the seabed obtained by fishing, dredging, and sand suppletion include human skeletal remains. Radiocarbon dating reveals that most of these are Mesolithic although a few Late Palaeolithic and historic remains are represented. Samples with known stable isotope ratios δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N show that Mesolithic inhabitants of ‘Doggerland’ had a significant component of freshwater fish in their diet. This means the ¹⁴C dates are subject to a reservoir effect mainly determined by the freshwater bodies at the time. Because of the lack of context, the magnitude of the reservoir effect cannot be derived, so that the ¹⁴C dates cannot be precisely calibrated to absolute ages. However, a distinct correlation is observed between the δ¹⁵N values and the (uncalibrated) ¹⁴C dates, suggesting a chronological development.

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... Doggerland sediments are nowadays mechanically dredged and the sediment collected at the bottom of the southern part of the North Sea is redeposited along the Dutch coastline. In this process, Palaeolithic and Mesolithic artefactsbut also faunal remains and human remainsare recovered (Janse, 2005;Kuitems et al., 2015;Langeveld, 2013;Niekus et al., 2019;Peeters and Mombers, 2014;Peeters et al., 2019;Peeters and Amkreutz, 2020;Van der Plicht et al., 2016;Vervoort-Kerkhoff and Van Kolfschoten, 1988). Over the past years, a large number of barbed points of Mesolithic types have been collected on beach replenishments in the area of The Hague and Rotterdam (Amkreutz and Spithoven, 2019). ...
... Collagen was extracted from the bone samples and used for 14 C dating, δ 13 C and δ 15 N analysis following the methods described in Van der Plicht et al. (2016). The collagen yield, C:N ratio, %C and %N were used as quality controls (see Table 1). ...
... The collagen yield, C:N ratio, %C and %N were used as quality controls (see Table 1). Following Van Klinken (1999) and Van der Plicht et al. (2016) measurements were considered valid when the collagen yield was higher than 0.5%, the C:N ratio was between 2.9 and 3.6, the carbon content (%C) was between 30 and 45% and the nitrogen content (%N) was between 11 and 16%. ...
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Barbed bone points originally deposited in Doggerland are regularly collected from the shores of the Netherlands. Their typology and direct ¹⁴C dating suggest they are of Mesolithic age. However, the species of which the barbed points were made cannot be identified based on morphological criteria. The bones used to produce the barbed points have been intensively modified during manufacture, use, and post-depositional processes. Here, we taxonomically assess ten barbed points found on the Dutch shore using mass spectrometry and collagen peptide mass fingerprinting alongside newly acquired ¹⁴C ages and δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N measurements. Our results demonstrate a sufficient preservation of unmodified collagen for mass spectrometry-based taxonomic identifications of bone and antler artefacts which have been preserved in marine environments since the beginning of the Holocene. We show that Homo sapiens bones as well as Cervus elaphus bones and antlers were transformed into barbed points. The ¹⁴C dating of nine barbed points yielded uncalibrated ages between 9.5 and 7.3 ka ¹⁴C BP. The δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N values of the seven cervid bone points fall within the range of herbivores, recovered from the North Sea, whereas the two human bone points indicate a freshwater and/or terrestrial fauna diet. The wide-scale application of ZooMS is a critical next step towards revealing the selection of species for osseous-tool manufacture in the context of Mesolithic Doggerland, but also further afield. The selection of Cervus elaphus and human bone for manufacturing barbed points in Mesolithic Doggerland is unlikely to have been opportunistic and instead seems to be strategic in nature. Further, the occurrence of Homo sapiens and Cervus elaphus bones in our random and limited dataset suggests that the selection of these species for barbed point production was non-random and subject to specific criteria. By highlighting the transformation of human bones into barbed points – possibly used as weapons – our study provides additional evidence for the complex manipulation of human remains during the Mesolithic, now also evidenced in Doggerland.
... Most dating evidence for these finds points to the Mesolithic (e.g. Meiklejohn et al. 2015;van der Plicht et al. 2016). As argued earlier, most quarrying locations are situated several miles off the coast. ...
... The problem of course is that it remains difficult to provide exact archaeological context information. Nevertheless, as has been demonstrated for other aspects of 'Doggerland-occupation' (van der Plicht et al. 2016), there is still much information to be gleaned from these less contextualised bulk finds of artefacts, too. For the study of bone and antler points a number of research targets have therefore been defined for the future. ...
Article
Bone and antler barbed points form one of the most common categories of finds from the submerged prehistoric landscape of the North sea, also known as ‘Doggerland’. They are usually found in redeposited sediments from the off-shore coastal zone. Some 30 years ago a first analysis of these hunting weapons was published, based on more than 400 finds. Meanwhile their numbers have doubled and verge on 1000, making them one of the larger artefact groups from this relatively unknown area. Also the number of sites from which these points derive has increased due to coastal reinforcement and the extension of Rotterdam harbour. Gradually more information is becoming available that these points can contribute to inter-site distinctions and different subgroups. While there is a need for further dating and chronological control, this find group, in combination with for instance characteristic lithic finds and human remains, might in the future provide a better grip on the communities of hunter-gatherers that inhabited this area. This is of particular importance since within the spectrum of finds there are two size groups. The smaller points, of a length of up to 88.5 mm, appear to form a separate group of points in the find spectrum of Western and Northern Europe.
... This beach was constructed in 2011 using dredged sands from 2 permit areas (Q16F and H), located 9 to 13 km offshore (Fig. 2). Here a wide range of archeological and paleontological remains from the Late Pleistocene and the Holocene were brought to the surface (30,31). The provenance of the sands is documented in the dredging ships' logs and by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. ...
... Unit B4 stretches 40 km south (32,33). Unit B4 is a source bed for Late Pleistocene mammal fauna and MP finds, including bifaces, and a Neandertal skull fragment (1,30,31,34). The Zandmotor find is part of the same archaeologicalpaleontological complex, firmly situating it in an MP context (SI Appendix, Fig. S3). ...
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We report the discovery of a 50,000-y-old birch tar-hafted flint tool found off the present day coastline of The Netherlands. The production of adhesives and multicomponent tools is considered complex technology and has a prominent place in discussions about the evolution of human behavior. This find provides evidence on the technological capabilities of Neandertals and illuminates the currently debated conditions under which these technologies could be maintained. 14C-accelerator mass spectrometry dating and the geological provenance of the artifact firmly associates it with a host of Middle Paleolithic stone tools and a Neandertal fossil. The find was analyzed using pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, X-ray micro-computed tomography, and optical light microscopy. The object is a piece of birch tar, encompassing one-third of a flint flake. This find is from northwestern Europe and complements a small set of well-dated and chemically identified adhesives from Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age contexts. Together with data from experiments and other Middle Paleolithic adhesives, it demonstrates that Neandertals mastered complex adhesive production strategies and composite tool use at the northern edge of their range. Thus, a large population size is not a necessary condition for complex behavior and technology. The mitigation of ecological risk, as demonstrated by the challenging conditions during Marine Isotope Stage 4 and provides a better explanation for the transmission and maintenance of technological complexity.
... Human acquisition of large animals may indicate hypercarnivory, i.e., high trophic level and specialization. Firstly, predation on large prey is exclusively associated with hypercarnivory (van Valkenburgh et al., 2004;van Valkenburgh et al., 2016;Wroe et al., 2005). Secondly, at a weight of around 66 kg (McHenry, 2009, table 1), larger than a wolf (Okarma, 1989), H. erectus was a large predator. ...
... Moreover, the relatively large group effort needed to acquire megaherbivores required specialization and sociality (van Valkenburgh et al., 2016;van Valkenburgh & Wayne, 2010). Also, as in humans , recent studies of wolves, lions, and cheetahs have shown that the skills required for killing large prey take years to acquire (van Valkenburgh & Wayne, 2010). ...
Article
The human trophic level (HTL) during the Pleistocene and its degree of variability serve, explicitly or tacitly, as the basis of many explanations for human evolution, behavior, and culture. Previous attempts to reconstruct the HTL have relied heavily on an analogy with recent hunter‐gatherer groups' diets. In addition to technological differences, recent findings of substantial ecological differences between the Pleistocene and the Anthropocene cast doubt regarding that analogy's validity. Surprisingly little systematic evolution‐guided evidence served to reconstruct HTL. Here, we reconstruct the HTL during the Pleistocene by reviewing evidence for the impact of the HTL on the biological, ecological, and behavioral systems derived from various existing studies. We adapt a paleobiological and paleoecological approach, including evidence from human physiology and genetics, archaeology, paleontology, and zoology, and identified 25 sources of evidence in total. The evidence shows that the trophic level of the Homo lineage that most probably led to modern humans evolved from a low base to a high, carnivorous position during the Pleistocene, beginning with Homo habilis and peaking in Homo erectus. A reversal of that trend appears in the Upper Paleolithic, strengthening in the Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic and Neolithic, and culminating with the advent of agriculture. We conclude that it is possible to reach a credible reconstruction of the HTL without relying on a simple analogy with recent hunter‐gatherers' diets. The memory of an adaptation to a trophic level that is embedded in modern humans' biology in the form of genetics, metabolism, and morphology is a fruitful line of investigation of past HTLs, whose potential we have only started to explore.
... Over the last four decades, analysis of stable isotopes has been used extensively to investigate marine resource exploitation by longdead humans (e.g., Chisholm, Nelson, & Schwarcz, 1982;Newsome, Phillips, Culleton, Guilderson, & Koch, 2004;Richards & Hedges, 1999;Schoeninger, DeNiro, & Tauber, 1983;Sealy & Van der Merwe, 1988; Van der Plicht, Amkreutz, Niekus, Peeters, & Smit, 2016). In such studies, inferences regarding marine food use are largely based on isotope ratios of carbon (Chisholm et al., 1982;Corr, Sealy, Horton, & Evershed, 2005;Sealy & Van der Merwe, 1988), carbon and nitrogen (Choy, An, & Richards, 2012;Newsome et al., 2004;Richards & Hedges, 1999;Richards & Trinkaus, 2009;Richards, Jacobi, Cook, Pettitt, & Stringer, 2005;Salazar-García et al., 2014;Van der Plicht et al., 2016), or carbon, nitrogen and sulfur (Kinaston, Buckley, Gray, Shaw, & Mandui, 2013;Leach, Quinn, Morrison, & Lyon, 2001;Stantis, Kinaston, Richards, Davidson, & Buckley, 2015). ...
... Over the last four decades, analysis of stable isotopes has been used extensively to investigate marine resource exploitation by longdead humans (e.g., Chisholm, Nelson, & Schwarcz, 1982;Newsome, Phillips, Culleton, Guilderson, & Koch, 2004;Richards & Hedges, 1999;Schoeninger, DeNiro, & Tauber, 1983;Sealy & Van der Merwe, 1988; Van der Plicht, Amkreutz, Niekus, Peeters, & Smit, 2016). In such studies, inferences regarding marine food use are largely based on isotope ratios of carbon (Chisholm et al., 1982;Corr, Sealy, Horton, & Evershed, 2005;Sealy & Van der Merwe, 1988), carbon and nitrogen (Choy, An, & Richards, 2012;Newsome et al., 2004;Richards & Hedges, 1999;Richards & Trinkaus, 2009;Richards, Jacobi, Cook, Pettitt, & Stringer, 2005;Salazar-García et al., 2014;Van der Plicht et al., 2016), or carbon, nitrogen and sulfur (Kinaston, Buckley, Gray, Shaw, & Mandui, 2013;Leach, Quinn, Morrison, & Lyon, 2001;Stantis, Kinaston, Richards, Davidson, & Buckley, 2015). In cool, temperate regions, 13 C/ 12 C ratios alone may be sufficient for distinguishing between terrestrial and marine food sources, because marine algae are typically enriched in 13 C relative to terrestrial C 3 plants (France, 1995;O'Leary, 1988), and terrestrial C 4 plants are rare or absent unless introduced (Ehleringer & Monson, 1993;Hattersley, 1983;Rundel, 1980;Teeri & Stowe, 1976). ...
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Objectives: Stable isotope analysis has been used to investigate consumption of marine resources in a variety of terrestrial mammals, including humans, but not yet in extant nonhuman primates. We sought to test the efficacy of stable isotope analysis as a tool for such studies by comparing isotope- and observation-based estimates of marine food consumption by a troop of noncommensal, free-ranging chacma baboons. Materials and methods: We determined δ(13) C and δ(15) N values of baboon hair (n = 9) and fecal samples (n = 144), and principal food items (n = 362). These values were used as input for diet models, the outputs of which were compared to observation-based estimates of marine food consumption. Results: Fecal δ(13) C values ranged from -29.3‰ to -25.6‰. δ(15) N values ranged from 0.9‰ to 6.3‰ and were positively correlated with a measure of marine foraging during the dietary integration period. Mean (± SD) δ(13) C values of adult male and female baboon hairs were -21.6‰ (± 0.1) and -21.8‰ (± 0.3) respectively, and corresponding δ(15) N values were 5.0‰ (± 0.3) and 3.9‰ (± 0.2). Models indicated that marine contributions were ≤10% of baboon diet within any season, and contributed ≤17% of dietary protein through the year. Discussion: Model output and observational data were in agreement, both indicating that despite their abundance in the intertidal region, marine foods comprised only a small proportion of baboon diet. This suggests that stable isotope analysis is a viable tool for investigating marine food consumption by natural-foraging primates in temperate regions.
... Investigation into early Mesolithic human diet based on collagen stable isotopes has been conducted in other inland contexts, such as the Doggerland (currently North Sea), the Meuse Basin in Belgium, the site of La Vergne in western France, and Friesack in north Germany (Bocherens et al. 2007;Schulting et al. 2008, van der Plicht et al. 2016, Meadows et al. 2018Fig. 8). ...
... 11,500-10,000 cal BP). Most of them delivered higher δ 15 N values than those expected for the consumption of the chronologically associated fauna for comparable or lower δ 13 C values, pointing to significant consumption of freshwater resources (van der Plicht et al. 2016). For the same time range, one individual provided remarkably high δ 13 C and δ 15 N values revealing an additional contribution of the marine resources in the diet. ...
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The Late Glacial and early Holocene (ca. 15,000–6,000 cal BP) witnessed major changes in the environmental conditions which led to the establishment of temperate vegetation and animal species, thereby offering new subsistence opportunities to the population of hunter-gatherers. Measurements of the relative abundances in 13C and 15N were applied to large herbivores from northern France to document the change in their habitat. During the early Holocene, red deer show a decrease in δ13C values most likely reflecting the effect of a dense canopy and an increase in δ15N values probably linked to the increased soil activity of soils in foraged territories. Aurochs and roe deer δ13C values also revealed a more densely forested habitat at the end of the Preboreal, while the δ13C values of the wild boar indicate dependence on fruits and underground tubers that were not affected by the canopy effect. Three human individuals from Val-de-Reuil and La Chaussée-Tirancourt dated to the Preboreal period provided relatively high δ15N values when compared with the local fauna and other early Mesolithic humans, which might have resulted from the consumption of freshwater resources especially at Val-de-Reuil. The δ34S values appear to depend more on the geographical location of the individual, as demonstrated by the difference among wild boar δ34S values between sites, rather than related to the protein source of the diet, namely, terrestrial versus aquatic. Our results confirm the influence of the forest ecosystem on the environment and diet of the considered early Mesolithic human of northern France, while the possible contribution of the aquatic ecosystem still needs to be documented.
... The Brown Bank has long been known to archaeologists as an area rich in material relating to the Mesolithic occupation of Doggerland. The regular recovery of both faunal remains, artefactual evidence, in the form of bone, stone, antler artefacts and human remains found as a result of serendipitous dredged finds and targeted 'fishing expeditions' demonstrate the range of Mesolithic material that can be recovered (Louwe Kooijmans 1970;Glimmerveen et al. 2004;Verhart 2004;Mol et al. 2006;Peeters 2011, van der Plicht et al. 2016, Peeters and Amkreutz 2020. Despite this apparent bounty, it is worth bearing in mind the nature of these finds, which are often recovered from kilometre long trawls, or as part of sand extraction projects. ...
... Despite this apparent bounty, it is worth bearing in mind the nature of these finds, which are often recovered from kilometre long trawls, or as part of sand extraction projects. They are not, in any sense, in-situ finds, although the artefacts themselves have scientific value, their analysis including Isotopes (van der Plicht et al. 2016), morphology (Amkreutz and Spithoven 2019) and C14 dating (Smith and Bonsall 1991). Consequently, such finds are essentially without archaeological site context and frequently can only possess, at best, coarse locational information. ...
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This paper describes some results of the research undertaken over the Brown Bank area during recent (2018/2019) geoarchaeological surveys in the North Sea which included seismic imaging, shallow (vibro)coring and dredging. It examines the benefits of simultaneous high-resolution (0.5 – 1m) and ultra-high-resolution (10 – 20cm) seismic survey techniques and a staged approach to resolving the submerged Holocene landscape in the highest possible detail for the purpose of targeted prospecting for archaeological material from the Mesolithic landscape of Doggerland. The materials recovered from such surveys offer significantly greater information due to an enhanced understanding of the context in which they were recovered. The importance of this information cannot be understated archaeologically, as few locations on land provide the opportunity to recover archaeological finds in situ within preserved landscapes. Moreover, it allows offshore areas of potential human activity to be prospected with some certainty of success.
... The mainly terrestrial diets of M03 and M16 at Friesack are consistent with the low δ 15 N and moderate δ 13 C values in the three later Boreal individuals at Blätterhöhle, in western Germany Figure 7 δ 13 C and δ 15 N isotope data obtained on human bone collagen from Friesack (circles) compared with data from contemporaneous human remains (squares) throughout Northern Europe (after Grünberg 2000;Fischer et al. 2007aFischer et al. , 2007bOlsen et al. 2010;Terberger et al. 2012;Bollongino et al. 2013;Drucker et al. 2016;van der Plicht et al. 2016 Bollongino et al. 2013), and in one from Tømmerupgård in Denmark (δ 15 N 8.3‰; Fischer et al. 2007a). However, most North Sea and Danish individuals of the same period had much more aquatic diets (freshwater [high δ 15 N and/or low δ 13 C] or marine [high δ 15 N and high δ 13 C]; van der Plicht et al. 2016;Fischer et al. 2007a; Figure 7). ...
... The mainly terrestrial diets of M03 and M16 at Friesack are consistent with the low δ 15 N and moderate δ 13 C values in the three later Boreal individuals at Blätterhöhle, in western Germany Figure 7 δ 13 C and δ 15 N isotope data obtained on human bone collagen from Friesack (circles) compared with data from contemporaneous human remains (squares) throughout Northern Europe (after Grünberg 2000;Fischer et al. 2007aFischer et al. , 2007bOlsen et al. 2010;Terberger et al. 2012;Bollongino et al. 2013;Drucker et al. 2016;van der Plicht et al. 2016 Bollongino et al. 2013), and in one from Tømmerupgård in Denmark (δ 15 N 8.3‰; Fischer et al. 2007a). However, most North Sea and Danish individuals of the same period had much more aquatic diets (freshwater [high δ 15 N and/or low δ 13 C] or marine [high δ 15 N and high δ 13 C]; van der Plicht et al. 2016;Fischer et al. 2007a; Figure 7). ...
Article
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Recent studies have shown that faunal assemblages from Mesolithic sites in inland Northern Europe contain more fish remains than previously thought, but the archaeological and archaeozoological record does not reveal the dietary importance of aquatic species to hunter-gatherer-fishers, even at a societal level. For example, the function of bone points, as hunting weapons or fishing equipment, has long been debated. Moreover, traditional methods provide no indication of variable subsistence practices within a population. For these reasons, paleodietary studies using stable isotope analyses of human remains have become routine. We present radiocarbon (14 C) and stable isotope data from nine prehistoric human bones from the Early Mesolithic-Early Neolithic site of Friesack 4, and isotopic data for local terrestrial mammals (elk, red deer, roe deer, wild boar, aurochs, beaver) and freshwater fish (European eel, European perch). The reference data allow individual paleodiets to be reconstructed. Using paleo-diet estimates of fish consumption, and modern values for local freshwater reservoir effects, we also calibrate human 14 C ages taking into account dietary reservoir effects. Although the number of individuals is small, it is possible to infer a decline in the dietary importance of fish from the Preboreal to the Boreal Mesolithic, and an increase in aquatic resource consumption in the Early Neolithic.
... To take the most obvious example, Doggerland (the region of the North European plain that once connected the British Isles with continental Europe) is now an underwater landscape where much of the relevant evidence is submerged under many metres of sea. Human occupation of this zone dating back to at least 11,700 BC has been recognised since the 1930s, but only recently has archaeological methodology advanced to the point where some of this evidence can begin to come to light in sufficient quantity and quality that discussions about its significance are possible (Bonsall/Smith 1989;Stewart et al. 2016;van der Plicht et al. 2016). Furthermore, in Denmark, underwater survey and trial excavations have begun to reveal evidence for Early and Middle Mesolithic coastal occupations in areas of the Western Baltic Sea at, for example, Amager on Zealand, and around Århus Bay off the eastern coast of Jutland (e.g. ...
... Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope data obtained from human bone collagen dating to the Early Mesolithic Maglemose culture of Southern Scandinavia and Doggerland (human bone collagen data fromFischer et al. 2007;Terberger et al. 2012;van der Plicht et al. 2016; reference data from ...
Chapter
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Southern Scandinavian Mesolithic research has one of the longest traditions within archaeology, dating back to the 1820s and 1830s. However, a combination of site visibility and an emphasis on the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition has meant that research has primarily been directed towards the Late Mesolithic Erte-bølle culture (c. 5400-4000 cal. BC) at the expense of the Early Mesolithic Maglemose culture (c. 9600-6400 cal. BC). Whilst fishing during the Ertebølle culture is well studied (Enghoff 2011; Ritchie 2010), fishing during the Early Mesolithic is rarely discussed in any detail. In this contribution we attempt to rectify this imbalance by collating all readily available data on fish remains and related technologies within the literature. Although our primary focus is the Early Mesolithic Maglemose culture of Southern Scandinavia, an area encompassing Denmark, Scania in Sweden and Schleswig-Holstein in Northern Germany, we draw on contemporaneous sites within the broader region to provide a more nuanced picture of the exploitation of this important resource, fish.
... We augmented these with data available for the modern composition of plants, animals and marine resources from the same region, where both carbon and nitrogen isotope composition was available. We included a large dataset of fish bone collagen from Belgium (Fuller et al., 2012), and another shellfish tissue dataset from Northern Ireland (Reddin et al., 2018), along with an ancient human dataset from 'Doggerland' (Van der Plicht et al., 2016), all less than 100 km from the British mainland, once connected to the British Isles in the case of Doggerland, and representative of conditions on the British mainland. ...
... The first is a group dominated by coastal midden sites in Scotland (e. g. Bownes, 2018) and also represented in the Doggerland material (Van der Plicht et al., 2016). The more common preservation of middens in Scotland than in England (Gutiérrez-Zugasti et al., 2011) is a direct result of the differential history of post-glacial sea level change between the two regions. ...
Article
The stable carbon (δ¹³C) and nitrogen (δ¹⁵N) isotope composition of human bone collagen is increasingly used to investigate past mobility and subsistence strategies. This study presents a compilation of 1298 carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses of archaeological human bone collagen from the British Isles spanning much of the Holocene, along with a compilation of 4148 analyses of modern and ancient isotope analyses from the major marine and terrestrial dietary resources from the same region. We convert ancient human stable isotope data to modern diet equivalent (MDE) values for humans, and convert the isotope composition of ancient dietary items to modern tissue equivalent (MTE) isotope values. These conversions enable a direct comparison of ancient and modern datasets. Results for food groups (plants, grain, herbivores, omnivores, shellfish, freshwater fish and marine fish) show a remarkably broad range of δ¹³CMTE values from ∼-36 to −7‰ and δ¹⁵NMTE values from ∼-2 to +21‰ and we provide estimates for each food type that can be used in dietary reconstruction in the absence of site-specific data. We further show that there is no significant change in terrestrial stable isotope baseline values over the Holocene, with observed variability in baseline values due to local eco-physiological, edaphic and microclimatic factors. The range of values expressed in the human sample set from the beginning of the Iron Age is relatively tightly clustered with 50% of all human modern diet equivalent results falling within a ∼2‰ range in δ¹³CMDE values (−25.5 to −27.5‰) and a ∼3.5‰ range in δ¹⁵NMDE values from (+4‰ to +8‰). From the Iron Age to post-medieval times there is a consistent progressive shift to higher δ¹³CMDE and δ¹⁵NMDE values at the population level. This shift likely reflects a combination of successive innovations associated with food production, preservation and transport that enabled a broader cross-section of the population of the British Isles to incorporate a higher proportion of animal, and particularly marine protein, into their diets.
... To take the most obvious example, Doggerland (the region of the North European plain that once connected the British Isles with continental Europe) is now an underwater landscape where much of the relevant evidence is submerged under many metres of sea. Human occupation of this zone dating back to at least 11,700 BC has been recognised since the 1930s, but only recently has archaeological methodology advanced to the point where some of this evidence can begin to come to light in sufficient quantity and quality that discussions about its significance are possible (Bonsall/Smith 1989;Stewart et al. 2016;van der Plicht et al. 2016). Furthermore, in Denmark, underwater survey and trial excavations have begun to reveal evidence for Early and Middle Mesolithic coastal occupations in areas of the Western Baltic Sea at, for example, Amager on Zealand, and around Århus Bay off the eastern coast of Jutland (e.g. ...
... Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope data obtained from human bone collagen dating to the Early Mesolithic Maglemose culture of Southern Scandinavia and Doggerland (human bone collagen data fromFischer et al. 2007;Terberger et al. 2012;van der Plicht et al. 2016; reference data from ...
... This is mainly the result of large scale infrastructural works such as 'Maasvlakte 2', an extension of the port at Rotterdam, and the 'Zandmotor' (Sand Engine) at the coast near The Hague. Due to sand replenishment hundreds of flint artefacts, animal bones with cutmarks, worked bone and antler, bone points, and even human remains (see Van der Plicht et al., 2016 for a recent publication) are deposited on beaches. In this brief presentation a few, mostly recent, important discoveries from 'Doggerland' were presented. ...
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The 26th Annual Meeting of the German Mesolithic Workgroup took place in Wuppertal from 10-12 March 2017 and was organised and hosted by Annabell Zander (University of York) and Birgit Gehlen (CRC 806, University of Cologne). In sum, more than 70 academics, students and amateur archaeologists from 8 different countries attended this conference. The international programme consisted of 24 talks and 10 poster presentations which were held in English and German. The presentations ranged from international to regional themes concerning the Final Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Early Neolithic.
... The importance of well-excavated wetland sites like Star Carr should not be underestimated: even though several sites with good organic preservation have been found in Denmark and Northern Germany, the subsistence economy is insufficiently understood. For instance, while some sites have produced important hunting and fishing tools, the amount of fish found on Maglemosian sites still remains very low despite the fact that aquatic fish were clearly important as a food resource, as new studies on stable isotopes of Early Holocene human remains show (Fischer 2007;Fischer et al. 2007;Terberger et al. 2012;Drucker et al. 2016;van der Plicht et al. 2016). We also know little about the role of plants in the subsistence economy; however, for the Late Preboreal in Germany we do see the use of hazelnuts, although in Scandinavia an abundance in hazel does not appear until the onset of the Boreal. ...
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Please find the books here on the White Rose Press website - available for download as PDFs, for e-readers or buy as books! https://universitypress.whiterose.ac.uk/site/booktext/ ... Excavations were undertaken at Star Carr by Clark in order to find a British counterpart to the well-known European sites such as Mullerup, Holmegård, Sværdborg, Lundby, Duvensee and Ageröd (Clark 1954, 179). Clark noted that there was a certain cultural homogeneity across the North European plain at this time when Britain was still joined to the Continent. As it turned out, the material culture from Star Carr proved to be earlier in date compared to these other sites, which indicated to Clark that Star Carr belonged to a distinct phase of the Early Mesolithic, termed in Northwest Europe the Maglemose culture (Clark 1954, 180). Before the development of radiocarbon dating in the 1950s, the dating of the Early Maglemose culture was carried out using relative stratigraphies of pollen and plant macrofossils. Open landscapes with juniper, followed by birch and pine forests represented what was defined as the ‘Preboreal’ period, whilst a varied deciduous forest characterized by hazel, alder, lime and oak marked the transition to the ‘Boreal’ period. In Southern Scandinavia, the Preboreal period is dated from c. 9600 BC to c. 8000 BC. Yet the transition to the deciduous forest occurred earlier in the south-east part of the region compared to the north-west meaning that the vegetation, the fauna and the Mesolithic economy must have varied from east to west during the Late Preboreal period. Clark noted that it was difficult to establish the context of Star Carr within the cultural sequence of Northwest Europe due to the paucity of Preboreal sites in the archaeological record. As such, he examined Klosterlund by the shore of the former lake Bølling in Jutland, Denmark, as a comparator though noted that this assemblage consisted of only flint and stone objects. Since then, dating methods have improved and more sites of this period have come to light. However, for the 800 or so years of occupation at Star Carr there are still relatively few sites of this period in Northwest Europe, especially when compared to other periods, and of these, very few have organic preservation. This chapter sets out the details of some of these sites; these have been mapped in Figure 12.1, which also shows the reconstruction of the ancient shoreline of the North Sea at the time.
... The former habitants of the North Sea land-bridge may thus have been forced to gradually leave their territories by moving to the south(east) and (north)west in direction of land already occupied by other groups. This is supported by recent stable isotope analyses on Mesolithic skeleton remains from the North Sea bed [53], which clearly demonstrate that the last Doggerland inhabitants hardly exploited marine resources and hence did not adapt their diet to the new coastal/marine environment. Population movement might also explain the co-occurrence of the "Ourlaine" and "Verrebroek/Chinru" ATs in the RMS region, the former representing the original population while the latter reflects the incoming hunter-gatherers from the drowned North sea basin. ...
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This paper investigates how former hunter-gatherers living along the southern North Sea coast in NW Europe adapted to long-term and short-term climatic and environmental changes at the beginning of the Holocene. It is argued that contemporaneous hunter-gatherers repeatedly changed their hunting equipment in response to changing climate and environment, not just for functional reasons but mainly driven by socio-territorial considerations. Based on a Bayesian analysis of 122 critically selected radiocarbon dates a broad chronological correlation is demonstrated between rapid changes in the design and technology of stone projectiles and short but abrupt cooling events, occurring at 10.3, 9.3 and 8.2 ka cal BP. Combined with the rapid sea level rises and increased wildfires these climatic events probably impacted the lifeways of hunter-gatherers in such a way that they increasingly faced resource stress and competition, forcing them to invest in the symbolic defense of their social territories.
... Recent finds of Mesolithic artefacts (antler and bone tools) and human remains retrieved from the North Sea floor prove that this formerly dry basin of ca. 250 000 km 2 was indeed occupied and exploited by huntergatherer-fishers (van der Plicht et al., 2016). However, sea levels rapidly rose until ca. ...
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In this paper the potential impact of the 9.3k cal a BP cooling event on the environment and human occupation in the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt region of NW Europe is investigated. Although various environmental (decreased fluvial activity, increased wildfires and changing vegetation) and cultural changes (lithic technology, raw material circulation, decreasing site density) can be identified in the (late) Boreal, a serious problem of equifinality remains. Lacking a high-resolution chronology for these events, it is still difficult to separate the impact of gradual from punctuated climatic changes. However, at present it seems that (some) environmental and cultural changes were already ongoing before the 9.3k cal a BP event but were accelerated by the latter. To gain a better understanding of these processes, it is necessary to take a holistic, multidisciplinary approach towards the Early Holocene in the southern North Sea basin.
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The North Sea and Atlantic margins of Europe encompass a vast area of seabed and coastline, and a correspondingly large area of potential submerged landscape. This once-seamless landscape has been divided by modern political geography, leading to different research traditions, management regimes and, consequently, necessitating division into national summary chapters. This chapter presents a synthesis of the national summaries that follow by focusing on four common themes. Within each, we explore the variability and commonalities between countries. Firstly, we assess the overall archaeological and palaeoenvironmental evidence base. It is clear that the evidence is temporally deep, incorporates material ranging from in situ human footprints and wooden structures to derived and isolated lithic finds, contains indications of both aquatic and terrestrial activity, and can be found across the study area, albeit unevenly distributed, with a bias to the North Sea. Secondly, we examine preservation and discovery conditions. In addition to spatially variable taphonomy caused by regional geological, palaeoenvironmental (e.g. sea-level change, glaciation) and hydrodynamic conditions, there are also national differences in methods of investigation, notably the role of systematic investigation versus chance finds. Based on work done in the North Sea, thoughts are suggested as to possible methodological ways forward. Thirdly, we address the research potential of the wider region. Extant research frameworks have identified numerous common themes, but sub-regional themes also exist. In both cases, these may cross-cut existing borders and require transnational collaboration. Research potential also extends to a range of evidence types, including derived as well as in situ archaeology and palaeoenvironmental records. Finally, we look at the management context, highlighting the key role played by historic environment management and offshore industry in data collection and methodological advances. Overall, this synthesis demonstrates that much progress has been made, though concentrated in certain areas (e.g. the North Sea). Still more remains to be done, in terms of extending approaches to less-studied parts of the Atlantic margin but also in improving the quality of data collected.
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The Dutch sector of the North Sea is an important source for archaeological and palaeolandscape data from prehistoric times. A vast body of artefacts and palaeontological remains, dating from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, has been dredged and trawled from the seafloor. Contacts with industry, and fishermen in particular, permitted private collectors and professionals to assemble valuable collections for research. Although the overwhelming majority of finds derive from unknown contexts, these are of scientific importance. Firstly, they demonstrate the potential for the presence of well-preserved submerged archaeological sites and palaeolandscape contexts. Secondly, there is a lot of ‘intrinsic’ information that can be extracted from individual specimens, notably for radiocarbon dating, diet reconstruction (stable isotopes) and aDNA. Work in recent years has been increasingly concerned with the contextualisation of these data. Geoarchaeological investigations off the Dutch coast have permitted insight into the stratigraphical origin of Middle Palaeolithic flint artefacts, and the fragment of a Neanderthal skull. Targeted geoarchaeological research in the extension of the Rotterdam harbour has provided an opportunity to partially investigate a Mesolithic site at 20 m below sea level. This has led to increasing awareness among stakeholders that this submerged heritage is valuable and needs to be taken care of. Several initiatives have been taken to anticipate the potential presence of important archaeological and palaeolandscape remains in zones of economic interest.
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This chapter deals with fishing and archaeology. Knowledge held by fishermen has contributed to underwater archaeology’s great moments. It is comparable to ‘local’ knowledge on land, although the locales may be far offshore. To some extent, fishing interests and the management of underwater cultural heritage are at odds but hardly as much as sometimes claimed. Future cooperation with fishermen is of the essence, as the fishing industry has been an essential informer for the development of archaeology offshore, all over the world, and continues to be so. This chapter explores how the development of fishing techniques over the last 150 years has informed prehistoric archaeology of the European continental shelves, notably of the North Sea. It does so through a historical analysis of technological development in its social setting and by highlighting some developments in Dutch fishing communities. It puts collecting of bones and trade in antiquities in perspective. It is mostly concerned, however, with the contingent knowledge base of archaeology and therefore informs archaeological epistemology.
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Norway offers good opportunities to study coastal adaptation in human societies during the early and mid-Holocene. This chapter aims to demonstrate how the coastal region of southeastern Norway and its resources were of central importance for the people who settled here during the Mesolithic. In order to investigate settlement strategies a case from the western coast of the Oslo fjord region is presented. Here settlement strategies and site location are discussed in terms of location near the shoreline by correlating radiocarbon dated contexts of anthropogenic origin with the shoreline displacement curve. Furthermore, the relative population size during the Mesolithic and Neolithic is studied by using radiocarbon dates as proxy. Finally, the subsistence economy is investigated by looking at the available faunal data from excavated sites in the region as well as isotopic evidence of human remains from Norway and the neighbouring regions.
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Archaeological evidence from the submerged North Sea landscape has established the rich diversity of Pleistocene and Early Holocene ecosystems and their importance to hunter-gatherer subsistence strategies. Comparatively little of this evidence, however, dates to the Late Glacial, the period when Northern Europe was repopulated by colonising foragers. A human parietal bone and a decorated bovid metatarsus recently recovered from the floor of the North Sea have been dated to this crucial transitional period. They are set against the background of significant climatic and environmental changes and a major technological and sociocultural transformation. These discoveries also reaffirm the importance of continental shelves as archaeological archives.
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Human migration throughout northern Europe following the Last Glacial Maximum is an ideal situation to investigate human colonization and adaptation in new landscapes. This is particularly so in Ireland, which possesses a distinctly compressed archaeological record compared to the rest of Europe. While various periods of Paleolithic occupations are well-documented throughout Europe, including Britain, the initial colonization of Ireland appears to be delayed until the Early Holocene. An assessment of archaeological and paleoenvironmental data suggests that inhospitable environmental conditions, specifically the absence of mature woodland ecosystems, substantially delayed the human colonization of Ireland. Once Mesolithic peoples reached Ireland, the absence of familiar fauna led them to quickly modify existing technologies. These local adaptions are reflected in the discontinuation of composite microlith technologies that characterize the rest of the European Mesolithic record. Within 1000 years of colonization, Mesolithic hunter-gatherers developed a uniquely Irish macrolith-based technology.
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The North Sea is considered a unique heritage site that yielded a huge amount of zoological and archaeological data. More than 200 palaeozoological and archaeological fossil bone samples from the North Sea bed are dated by ¹⁴ C. About 2/3 of these dated bones are Pleistocene in age; the majority of the bones are from extinct species (in particular woolly mammoth); about 1/3 of the sample date to the Holocene. The presented dataset is important in its kind, but interpretation is limited because of a lack of context of the finds. The stable isotopes ( ¹³ C, ¹⁵ N) of the dated samples provide additional information on palaeoenvironmental conditions and dietary habits in the past. We present primarily a Groningen list of data; a few fossils dated in other laboratories are included for completeness.
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New AMS dates and stable carbon and nitrogen measurements on human remains are presented for three middle and late Neolithic sites in Brittany. When compared with previous results from the Mesolithic cemeteries of Teviec and Hoedic, the Neolithic population shows far less use of marine resources. But some small proportion of marine protein can still be detected in the diet for some individuals in the Neolithic. More results for the earliest Neolithic in Brittany are still needed, and are currently being sought. A correction is also presented here for the very late individual from Hoedic, and a new date fits better with previous results from the site. There is still a strong dietary shift between the Mesolithic and the Neolithic, and it is argued that the change in diet relates both to cultural choice and identity, and to more practical matters involved in farming and herding.
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While it is accepted that the Neolithic was an intrusive phenomenon across much of Central Europe, the transition to food production on the northwestern fringes of the Continent has been viewed in terms of complex interactions between incoming and indigenous populations, leading to 'continuity' and 'acculturation' rather than replacement. Much current opinion holds that this was in many areas (in particular southern Scandinavia and the British Isles) a gradual process, and that radical changes did not occur in the subsistence economy, which is seen as retaining a fishing-hunting-gathering character. However, such a view is not in accordance with a considerable body of stable isotope evidence, presented and discussed here. This evidence, it is argued, has very different implications for the nature of the transition.
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While long barrows and chambered tombs have long received most of the attention of British Neolithic archaeologists investigating mortuary practices, it is clear that there were a variety of different depositional contexts for the remains of the dead at this time. Other kinds of monuments, and in particular causewayed enclosures, seem to have played an important role in funerary behaviour. But other, less immediately recognisable places also feature. More flat graves are being identified through the application of AMS dating to burials lacking diagnostic grave goods. A number of human remains recovered from river contexts have also been shown in recent years to fall within the Neolithic Period, raising the possibility in some instances of river 'burial'. But, at least quantitatively, the most important alternative burial location to monuments is without question deposition in caves. Again, it is the increasingly routine use of AMS dating that is raising awareness of the number of Neolithic human remains from caves. In many cases there appear to be parallels in how the skeleton is treated in caves and monuments, such as the deposition of both articulated and disarticulated remains, and the manipulation of skeletal elements. The significance of these different burial locations remains poorly understood, but there are some clear lines of inquiry that can be explored. Foremost is the need to document the full extent of cave burial in the Neolithic through the instigation of systematic dating programmes. This can then provide the basis for a comparison of the demographic and health profiles of groups interred in caves and in monuments. Preliminary stable isotope results from South Wales suggest that the long-term diets of individuals differed significantly between these two burial contexts, intimating the existence of considerable socioeconomic differentiation in Neolithic Britain.
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The aim of this research is the isotopic characterisation of archaeological fish species to freshwater, brackish and marine environments, trophic level and migration patterns, and to determine intraspecies variation within and between fish populations differing in location within central and northern Europe. Thus, carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis was undertaken on collagen extracted from 72 fish bone samples from eight Mesolithic and Neolithic archaeological sites in central and northern Europe. Thirty-six (50%) of the specimens analysed produced results with acceptable carbon to nitrogen atomic ratios (2·9–3·6). The fish remains encompassed a wide spectrum of freshwater, brackish and marine taxa (n = 12), and this is reflected in the δ 13 C values (−24·5 to −7·8‰). The freshwater/brackish fish (pike, Esox lucius; perch, Perca fluviatilis; zander, Sander lucioperca) had δ 13 C values that ranged from −24·2 to −19·3‰, whereas the brackish/marine fish (spurdog, Squalus acanthias; flatfish, Pleuronectidae; codfish, Gadidae; garfish, Belone belone; mackerel, Scomber scombrus) ranged from −14·9 to −9·4‰. Salmonidae, an anadromous taxon, and the eel (Anguilla anguilla), a catadromous species, had carbon isotope values consistent with marine origin, and no evidence of freshwater residency (−12·7 to −11·7‰). The δ 15 N values had a range of 6·2‰ (6·5–12·7‰) indicating that these fish were on average feeding at 1·7 trophic levels higher than their producers in these diverse aquatic environments. These results serve as an important ecological baseline for the future isotopic reconstruction of the diet of human populations dating to the late Mesolithic and early Neolithic of the region.
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“The wet and the wild followed by the dry and the tame” – or did they occur at the same time? Diet in Mesolithic – Neolithic southern Sweden - Volume 78 Issue 299 - Kerstin Lidén, Gunilla Eriksson, Bengt Nordqvist, Anders Götherström, Erik Bendixen
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The landscape evolution of the southern North Sea basin is complex and has left a geographically varying record of marine, lacustrine, fluvial and glacial sedimentation and erosion. Quaternary climatic history, which importantly included glaciation, combined with tectonics gave rise to cyclic and non-cyclic changes of sedimentation and erosion patterns. Large-scale landscape reorganisations left strong imprints in the preserved record, and are important for the detail that palaeogeographical reconstructions for the North Sea area can achieve. In the spirit of the North Sea Prehistory Research and Management Framework (NSPRMF; Peeters et al., 2009), this paper provides background geological information regarding the North Sea. It summarises current stratigraphical and chronological frameworks and provides an overview of sedimentary environments. As we go back in time, the understanding of Quaternary palaeo-environmental evolution in the North Sea basin during the last 1 million years becomes decreasingly accurate, with degree of preservation and accuracy of age control equally important controls. Comparing palaeogeographical reconstructions for the Middle Pleistocene, the last interglacial-glacial cycle and the period following the Last Glacial Maximum illustrates this. More importantly, a series of palaeogeographical maps provide an account of basin-scale landscape change, which provides an overall framework for comparing landscape situations through time.
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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope data from the bone collagen of human remains excavated in the Sado Valley in the Alentejo region of Portugal provide evidence for the existence of two Mesolithic communities living in close proximity along the shores of an estuarine environment with significantly different diets. These findings add to the limited isotope paleodiet data set from this period in southern Europe and offer a valuable contribution to understandings of the wider European Mesolithic along the Atlantic coastline by (1) providing evidence of coastal Mesolithic hunter-gatherers with mainly terrestrial diets in Europe and (2) suggesting the presence of regional heterogeneity, at a small geographical scale, in subsistence choices among coastal Mesolithic groups. These results show the complexity of human subsistence adaptations in the European Mesolithic and have wider-reaching implications for understanding hunter-gatherer group interactions.
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The North Sea subsurface shows the marks of long-term tectonic subsidence. Much of it contains a thick record of glacial and interglacial deposits and landscapes, formed during multiple glacial cycles and the associated regressions and transgressions during the past two million years. At times of lower sea level than today, areas that are presently submerged were fertile lowlands more favourable for hunting and gathering than the surrounding upland. These drowned lowlands are not captured by traditional 1:250,000 geological maps of the North Sea subsurface because the underlying seismic and core data are commonly too widely spaced to achieve this. Palaeolandscape mapping requires identification of building blocks with spatial scales in the order of 1 km or less. As high-density 2D and high-quality 3D seismics are becoming available for an increasing part of the North Sea, glacial and interglacial palaeolandscapes can be reconstructed for more and more areas. An overview of published palaeolandscape reconstructions shows that shallow time slices through 3D data provide map views that are very suitable for the identification of landscape elements. For optimal results, each time slice needs to be validated and ground-truthed with 2D seismics and with descriptions and analyses of cores and borehole samples. Interpretations should be made by teams of geoscientists with a sufficiently broad range of expertise to recognise and classify even subtle or unfamiliar patterns and features. The resulting reconstructions will provide a context and an environmental setting for Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic societies and finds.
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This paper presents new 500 year interval palaeogeographic models for Britain, Ireland and the North West French coast from 11000 cal. BP to present. These models are used to calculate the varying rates of inundation for different geographical zones over the study period. This allows for consideration of the differential impact that Holocene sea-level rise had across space and time, and on past societies. In turn, consideration of the limitations of the models helps to foreground profitable areas for future research.
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For most people in Europe the North Sea is a stretch of water crossed, perhaps, when going on holiday or as part of a business trip. Few travellers are aware, however, that these grey waters cover a prehistoric landscape that once stretched without break from England to the Danish coast. Yet, between 18,000 and 5500 BC, global warming raised sea levels to the extent that water engulfed a plain larger than the United Kingdom, and lands that had been home to mankind for millennia gradually sank. Essentially, an entire European country disappeared beneath the North Sea, its physical remains preserved forever but gradually being lost to memory.
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Debate on the ancestry of Europeans centers on the interplay between Mesolithic foragers and Neolithic farmers. Foragers are generally believed to have disappeared shortly after the arrival of agriculture. To investigate the relation between foragers and farmers, we examined Mesolithic and Neolithic samples from the Blätterhöhle site. Mesolithic mitochondrial DNA sequences were typical of European foragers, whereas the Neolithic sample included additional lineages that are associated with early farmers. However, isotope analyses separate the Neolithic sample into two groups: one with an agriculturalist diet and one with a forager and freshwater fish diet, the latter carrying mitochondrial DNA sequences typical of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. This indicates that the descendants of Mesolithic people maintained a foraging lifestyle in Central Europe for more than 2000 years after the arrival of farming societies.
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Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios were measured in 157 fish bone collagen samples from 15 different archaeological sites in Belgium which ranged in ages from the 3rd to the 18th c. AD. Due to diagenetic contamination of the burial environment, only 63 specimens produced results with suitable C : N ratios (2.9-3.6). The selected bones encompass a wide spectrum of freshwater, brackish, and marine taxa (N = 18), and this is reflected in the delta C-13 results (-28.2 parts per thousand to -12.9%). The freshwater fish have delta C-13 values that range from -28.2 parts per thousand to -20.2 parts per thousand, while the marine fish cluster between -15.4 parts per thousand and -13.0 parts per thousand. Eel, a catadromous species (mostly living in freshwater but migrating into the sea to spawn), plots between -24.1 parts per thousand and -17.7 parts per thousand, and the anadromous fish (living in marine environments but migrating into freshwater to spawn) show a mix of freshwater and marine isotopic signatures. The delta N-15 results also have a large range (7.2 parts per thousand to 16.7 parts per thousand) indicating that these fish were feeding at many different trophic levels in these diverse aquatic environments. The aim of this research is the isotopic characterization of archaeological fish species (ecology, trophic level, migration patterns) and to determine intra-species variation within and between fish populations differing in time and location. Due to the previous lack of archaeological fish isotope data from Northern Europe and Belgium in particular, these results serve as an important ecological backdrop for the future isotopic reconstruction of the diet of human populations dating from the historical period (1st and 2nd millennium AD), where there is zooarchaeological and historical evidence for an increased consumption of marine fish.
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This study presents a detailed reconstruction of the palaeogeography of the Rhine valley (western Netherlands) during the Holocene transgression with systems tracts placed in a precise sea-level context. This approach permits comparison of actual versus conceptual boundaries of the lowstand, transgressive and highstand systems tracts. The inland position of the highstand Rhine river mouth on a wide, low-gradient continental shelf meant that base-level changes were the dominant control on sedimentation for a relatively short period of the last glacial cycle. Systems in such inland positions predominantly record changes in the balance between river discharge and sediment load, and preserve excellent records of climatic changes or other catchment-induced forcing. It is shown here that the transgressive systems tract-part of the coastal prism formed in three stages: (i) the millennium before 8·45 ka bp, when the area was dominated by fluvial environments with extensive wetlands; (ii) the millennium after 8·45 ka, characterized by strong erosion, increasing tidal amplitudes and bay-head delta development; and (iii) the period between 7·5 and 6·3 ka bp when the Rhine avulsed multiple times and the maximum flooding surface formed. The diachroneity of the transgressive surface is strongly suppressed because of a pulse of accelerated sea-level rise at 8·45 ka bp. That event not only had a strong effect on preservation, but has circum-oceanic stratigraphical relevance as it divides the early and middle Holocene parts of coastal successions worldwide. The palaeogeographical reconstruction offers a unique full spatial–temporal view on the coastal and fluvial dynamics of a major river mouth under brief rapid forced transgression. This reconstruction is of relevance for Holocene and ancient transgressive systems worldwide, and for next-century natural coasts that are predicted to experience a 1 m sea-level rise.
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Around 8200 calBP, large parts of the now submerged North Sea continental shelf ('Dog-gerland') were catastrophically flooded by the Storegga Slide tsunami, one of the largest tsunamis known for the Holocene, which was generated on the Norwegian coastal margin by a submarine landslide. In the present paper, we derive a precise calendric date for the Storegga Slide tsunami, use this date for reconstruction of contemporary coastlines in the North Sea in relation to rapidly rising sea-levels, and discuss the potential effects of the tsunami on the contemporaneous Mesolithic popula-tion. One main result of this study is an unexpectedly high tsunami impact assigned to the western regions of Jutland. IZVLE∞EK – Okoli 8200 calBP je velik del danes potopljenega severnomorskega kontinentalnega pasu (Doggerland) v katastrofalni poplavi prekril cunami. To je eden najve≠jih holocenskih cunamijev, ki ga je povzro≠il podmorski plaz na norve∏ki obali (Storegga Slide). V ≠lanku predstavljamo natan≠ne datume za cunami Storegga Slide in jih uporabimo pri rekonstrukciji takratnih obal Severnega mor-ja, v ≠asu naglega dviganja morske gladine. Dotaknemo se tudi mo∫nih posledic cunamija za mezo-litske populacije. Glavni rezultat ∏tudije je nepri≠akovano mo≠an vpliv cunamija na zahodni del Jut-landa.
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Behre, K.-E. 2007 (January): A new Holocene sea-level curve for the southern North Sea. Boreas, Vol. 36, pp. 82–102. Oslo. ISSN 0300–9483. A new sea-level curve (MHW, mean high water level) for the southern North Sea is presented, spanning the last 10000 years and based on new data recently obtained along the German coast. The 118 dates were selected from basal as well as intercalated peats of the Holocene sequence and archaeological dates from the last 3000 years. Because of different MHW levels along the German North Sea coast, all data were corrected to the standard tide gauge at Wilhelmshaven to make them comparable. Special advantages of this area for sea-level reconstructions are negligible tectonic and isostatic subsidence and the absence of coastal barrier systems that might have mitigated or masked sea-level changes. Changes of water level had therefore immediate consequences for the facies and could be dated exactly. The chronostratigraphic Calais-Dunkirk system has been improved and adapted to the new data. Altogether seven regressions (R 1-R 7) have been identified, each of them characterized by a distinct decline in sea level. These fluctuations are in accord with the evidence from other parts of the North Sea region. A draft of former North Sea shorelines is presented on the basis of this sea-level curve.
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C, N ad S stable isotope compositions of fossil human bones are frequently used in palaeodiet studies, but results from strictly marine communities are scarce. Modern hunting and fishing Inuit Greenlanders in the Uummannaq District in North Greenland are known to live from a diet high in local marine food (seal, whale, halibut) combined with basic foods (bread, cereals, dairy products) imported from Denmark and thus provide an excellent test population. Here were report diet anamnesis data and stable isotope compositions of fingernails from 82 Uummannaq District Inuit individuals and a control group of 32 Danes living in Denmark. The Uummannaq fingernails are significantly enriched in 13C, 15N, 34S compared to the Danish group (t-test, 99% conf. level). Calculated from isotope modelling, the Uummannaq Inuit get on average 50% of their diet (range 28 to 68%) from marine food placed high in the trophic system reflecting high proportions of carnivorous marine mammals (seal) in the diet, and the most 15N enriched individuals have trophic positions close to polar bears. Comparisons to other human hair and fingernail studies reveal the Uummannaq Inuit to be the most heavy-isotope enriched modern community analysed so far. The consistency of our data lead us to conclude that the fingernail isotope signatures are reliable measures of modern human diet composition and that fingernail isotope analyses can provide an easy quantitative supplement to other diet studies. Sulphur isotope analyses in special may provide unambiguous results in terrestrial-to-marine mixing systems.
Article
Recent excavations at the sites of Strandvägen and Kanaljorden in Motala, Eastern Central Sweden, have unearthed complex and varied funerary remains from the Mesolithic. The two sites are situated on opposite banks of the river Motala Ström. While geographically close and roughly covering the same time span (c. 8000–7000 cal. BP), the funerary remains reveal differences and similarities in the treatment of the dead between the two localities. While at Strandvägen human bones were mostly found either scattered along the river bed or in inhumation graves, Kanaljorden contains wetland depositions of disarticulated skulls. We have conducted multi-isotope analyses of δ13C, δ15N, δ34S and 87Sr/86Sr of human and animal remains with the aim of reconstructing the dietary patterns, geographic provenance and mobility of the interred. A series of faunal reference samples and, in the case of 87Sr/86Sr, soil samples have been analysed in order to establish relevant isotopic baselines. The results show a protein intake dominated by aquatic resources, probably consisting of both freshwater and marine fish in varied proportions. The strontium isotope data indicate an interesting distinction between the individuals buried on either side of the river Motala Ström. Five out of six sampled individuals from Strandvägen have isotope ratios consistent with a local provenance, whereas ratios from seven out of eight Kanaljorden individuals indicate a non-local origin. The δ34S analysis proved problematic as a majority of the samples appear to be affected by diagenesis. This is probably the result of contamination by exogenous sulphur from surrounding fluvial and lacustrine sediments, as has previously been reported from other waterlogged sites.
Article
This work provides new insights into human responses to and perceptions of sea-level rise at a time when the landscapes of north-west Europe were radically changing. These issues are investigated through a case study focused on the Channel Islands. We report on the excavation of two sites, Canal du Squez in Jersey and Lihou (GU582) in Guernsey, and the study of museum collections across the Channel Islands. We argue that people were drawn to this area as a result of the dynamic environmental processes occurring and the opportunities these created. The evidence suggests that the area was a particular focus during the Middle Mesolithic, when Guernsey and Alderney were already islands and while Jersey was a peninsula of northern France. Insularisation does not appear to have created a barrier to occupation during either the Middle or Final Mesolithic, indicating the appearance of lifeways increasingly focused on maritime voyaging and marine resources from the second half of the 9th millennium BC onwards.
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A broad overview of stable carbon and nitrogen measurements of European Mesolithic human bone collagen demonstrates considerable structure in the dataset. The clearest difference, unsurprisingly, is seen between coastal and inland sites, though this oversimplifies a more complex situtation. With the coastal sample, there is a clear separation between the Baltic and Atlantic sites and those in the Mediterranean, with the latter showing the minimal use of marine foods. The inland sample also shows strong regional patterning, with evidence for a significant exploitation of freshwater aquatic resources clearly seen in some, but not all areas. This large-scale view subsumes some interesting local variations, supporting the view that, rather than being highly mobile, Mesolithic communities were organised within relatively small and stable territories.
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IntroductionStable IsotopesAn Isotopic Tour through EuropeConclusions NotesReferences
Article
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research finances a research programme directed towards a new synthesis of the transition to farming in the Netherlands, viewed in its wider geographical context, profiting from the new wealth of data made available by modern large-scale field research. The programme encompasses various projects: a critical approach to the sitebound evidence by Luc Amkreutz, a regional approach by Bart Vanmontfort (Leuven), the first physical anthropological and isotopic study of the area by Liesbeth Smits, the acquisition and distribution of raw materials and prestigious items by Leo Verhart, and a re-evaluation of the various sources of palaeobotanical evidence from the delta district by Welmoed Out. This chapter serves as a short interim report, anticipating the synthetic volume planned for the year 2008. Comments are made especially on the seemingly parallel developments at the other end of the North German Plain in the Baltic coastal area.
Article
A cross-cultural survey of hunter-gatherers is conducted with particular emphasis on housing, mobility, and subsistence as these features vary with ecological settings and with particular environmental variables. Implications are drawn for investigations of variability as it is documented archaeologically. Particular emphasis is given to the features listed above, and to arguments in the literature that cite these variables and seek to evaluate the relative "complexity" of ancient sociocultural systems known from archaeological materials.
Article
For major parts of the Palaeolithic substantial areas of the current southern North Sea and what later became the English Channel were dry land. Those areas, now covered by tens of metres of sea, were occasionally core areas for large herds of herbivores and the animals that preyed upon them, including Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers. This is demonstrated by the large amounts of Pleistocenemammal fossils, artefacts and a Neanderthal fossil recovered during the last one and a half centuries. Any consideration of the Pleistocene occupation history of northwest Europe needs to deal with the fact that a major part of the landscape available to Pleistocene hunter-gatherers is currently submerged under the waters of the North Sea, one of the most prolific Pleistocene fossil-bearing localities world-wide. One also needs to take into account the complex landscape evolution of the southern North Sea basin, with geographically varying successions of marine, lacustrine, fluvial and glacial sedimentation and erosion. This paper gives a short overview of the occupation history of northwest Europe, from its earliest traces at the very end of the Lower and the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene up to the middle part of the Upper Palaeolithic, when this part of Europe became deserted for a period of about 10,000 years. Tentative interpretations and questions raised by the overview will be situated in the context of the information potential of the deposits in the southern North Sea and the Channel area.
Article
This paper discusses the significance of the southern North Sea for research on the human occupation of northwest Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Recent insight into the survival of post-LGM land surfaces and palaeolandscape structures points to the potential preservation of Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites in this area. Finds of well-preserved materials (including artefacts of bone, antler and wood, as well as human remains) from various zones along the Dutch and British coasts corroborate this idea, whilst underwater excavations of eroding sites at Bouldnor Cliff (UK) and Maasvlakte-Rotterdam (NL) underpin the possibilities of gaining further insight into human behaviour in the context of submerging landscapes. Although the significance of the southern North Sea with regard to the Mesolithic is gradually exposed, there is still a lot to learn. The terrestrial archaeological records from both sides of the present-day North Sea yield indisputable evidence for hunter-gatherer presence from at least 13,000 BP. Successions of Magdalenian/Creswellian/Hamburgian, Federmesser Gruppen and Ahrensburgian people (re)colonised the northwest European plain, interrupted by short-lived cold spells. Although it is expected that the southern North Sea must have been inhabited, and maybe even more intensively than the present-day dry land, archaeological evidence is still missing. Despite the presence of vast amounts of mammalian remains and the availability of many radiocarbon-dated bones, there is a striking lack of material post-dating the LGM and pre-dating the Holocene, whilst remains dated to the early Upper Palaeolithic show no evidence of human interference. At this stage, it is probable that taphonomic factors and research biases are responsible for this picture. This marks a sharp contrast with the early Holocene record, where numerous Mesolithic artefacts, as well as human remains, provide evidence for human occupation of the area. Materials are exposed on the sea floor, evidencing gradual erosion of early Holocene land surfaces. Although the number of sites is increasing, little is known yet about how the submerged record can be connected to the terrestrial record. Indeed, the central question here is how the submerged Mesolithic record compares to, or differs from, the terrestrial record. In order to answer this question, targeted archaeological research is needed, along with an understanding of taphonomic processes and increased insight into landscape dynamics. From a northwest European perspective, the present state of knowledge about the submerged post-LGM prehistoric archaeology of the southern North Sea demonstrates its huge research potential.
Article
Archaeologists tend to refer to the land that once existed between Britain and the continent as a landbridge. It was, however, a landscape as habitable as neighbouring regions, and here called Doggerland to emphasise its availability for settlement by prehistoric peoples. Evidence from the Geological Surveys undertaken by countries bordering the North Sea Basin, together with allied research, is drawn together to provide an overview of the possibilities. A range of interacting geological processes implies that the present-day relief of the North Sea bed does not provide a sound guide to the relief of the former landscape, nor to the chronology and character of its submergence. A series of maps accompanies the text to provide a speculative reconstruction of the topography, river systems, coastline, vegetation, fauna, and human occupation of Doggerland from the Devensian/Weichselian maximum to the beginnings of the Neolithic.
Article
Tijdens de ijstijden van het Pleistoceen lag de Noordzee droog. Het leek wel een koude, droge Serengeti. In dit rijk geïllustreerde boek komen de dieren voorbij die in de verschillende perioden op de Noordzeebodem leefden. De auteurs verzamelden hun botten op de visafslag of haalden ze hoogstpersoonlijk van de zeebodem omhoog. Ze bestudeerden de bijbehorende stuifmeelkorrels om het landschap te reconstrueren, ze dateerden de vondsten met radioactief koolstof en ze zochten en vonden sporen van menselijke bewoning. Deze Kleine Encyclopedie is daarmee haast een reportage uit de eerste hand over het leven in het Pleistoceen.
Article
Our understanding of the Norse dietary adaptations to their Greenlandic home comes primarily from sparse historical records, from what is known of the Norse dietary economy in other North Atlantic lands, and from zooarchaeological examinations of the animal bones found in the various excavations of Norse Greenlandic sites which have taken place over the past century. To obtain more detailed information on the diets of the Norse settlers in Greenland, measures of the stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) values of human bone collagen have been made for 80 individuals from an existing collection of Norse skeletal material. The material is from fi ve churchyards in the Norse Eastern Settlement and two churchyards in the Western Settlement. These data are interpreted with the aid of similar data obtained for the wild fauna of Greenland, for the Norse domestic animals and for a number of Thule Culture individuals of about the same time period. It is clear that application of the isotopic dietary method to Greenland is complex, but even so, it can provide very useful information. It is also clear that the isotopic method provides reliable information on Greenlandic diet even at the level of the individual. For the two Norse settlements taken as a whole, the basic dietary economy was based about as much on hunting as it was on their domestic animals. We see no evidence for real differences between the diets of men and women or between individuals of different ages. The large individual differences are then likely connected to status or circumstance, but not to sex or age.
Article
Three modes of reporting ¹⁴ C activities are in use, in part analogous to the internationally accepted (IAEA) conventions for stable isotopes: (1) absolute activity , the specific activity of ¹⁴ C or the activity per gram of carbon; (2) activity ratio , the ratio between the absolute activities of a sample and the standard; and (3) relative activity , the difference between the absolute activities of a sample and standard material, relative to the absolute standard activity. The basic definitions originate from decisions made by the radiocarbon community at its past conferences. Stuiver and Polach (1977) reviewed and sought to specify the definitions and conventions. Several colleagues, however, have experienced inadequacies and pitfalls in the definitions and use of symbols. Furthermore, the latter have to be slightly amended because of the use of modern measuring techniques. This paper is intended to provide a consistent set of reporting symbols and definitions, illustrated by some practical examples.
Article
The ratios of various stable isotopes in an animal's body reflect closely the corresponding isotope distribution in its habitat. In his Perspective, Kohn discusses the expanding collection of research results obtained with stable-isotope measurements. Such data should be extremely useful for extending our understanding of ecology, climate, and animal biology.
Article
Bone samples from the Greenland Viking colony provide us with a unique opportunity to test and use 14C dat- ing of remains of humans who depended upon food of mixed marine and terrestrial origin. We investigated the skeletons of 27 Greenland Norse people excavated from churchyard burials from the late 10th to the middle 15th century. The stable car- bon isotopic composition (δ13C) of the bone collagen reveals that the diet of the Greenland Norse changed dramatically from predominantly terrestrial food at the time of Eric the Red around AD 1000 to predominantly marine food toward the end of the settlement period around AD 1450. We find that it is possible to 14C-date these bones of mixed marine and terrestrial origin precisely when proper correction for the marine reservoir effect (the 14C age difference between terrestrial and marine organ- isms) is taken into account. From the dietary information obtained via the δ13C values of the bones we have calculated indi- vidual reservoir age corrections for the measured 14C ages of each skeleton. The reservoir age corrections were calibrated by comparing the 14C dates of 3 highly marine skeletons with the 14C dates of their terrestrial grave clothes. The calibrated ages of all 27 skeletons from different parts of the Norse settlement obtained by this method are found to be consistent with avail- able historical and archaeological chronology. The evidence for a change in subsistence from terrestrial to marine food is an important clue to the old puzzle of the disappearance of the Greenland Norse, obtained here for the first time by measurements on the remains of the people themselves instead of by more indirect methods like kitchen-midden analysis.
Article
Since its introduction in 19771, stable isotope analysis of bone collagen has been widely used to reconstruct aspects of prehistoric human and animal diets2–11. This method of dietary analysis is based on two well-established observations, and on an assumption that has never been tested. The first observation is that bone collagen 13C/12C and 15N/14N ratios reflect the corresponding isotope ratio of an animal's diet1–5,12. The second is that groups of foods have characteristically different 13C/12C and/or 15N/14N ratios13,14. Taken together, the two observations indicate that the isotope ratios of collagen in the bones of a living animal reflect the amounts of these groups of foods that the animal ate. Thus, it has been possible to use fresh bone collagen 13C/12C ratios to determine the relative consumption of C3 and C4 plants15–17, while 13C/12C and 15N/14N ratios have been used to distinguish between the use of marine and terrestrial foods14. The 15N/14N ratios of fresh bone collagen probably also reflect the use of leguminous and non-leguminous plants as food5, but this has not yet been demonstrated. Prehistoric consumption of these same groups of foods has been reconstructed from isotope ratios of collagen extracted from fossil bone1–11. Implicit in the application of the isotopic method to prehistoric material is the assumption that bone collagen isotope ratios have not been modified by postmortem processes. Here I present the first examination of the validity of this assumption. The results show that postmortem alteration of bone collagen isotope ratios does occur, but that it is possible to identify prehistoric bones whose collagen has not undergone such alteration.
Book
Isotopes are forms of an element that differ in the number of neutrons. Isotopes function as natural dyes or colors, generally tracking the circulation of elements. Isotopes trace ecological connections at many levels, from individual microbes to whole landscapes. Isotope colors mix when source materials combine, and in a cyclic process that ecologists can appreciate, the process of isotope fractionation takes the mixed material and regenerates the sources by splitting or fractionating the mixtures. Elements and their isotopes circulate in the biosphere at large, but also in all smaller ecological plant, animal, or soil systems. Chapter 3 reviews this circulation for each of the HCNOS elements, then gives four short reviews that may stimulate you to think about how you could use isotopes in your own ecological research.
Article
This paper explores how the drastic landscape changes that took place in the North Sea basin during the Holocene affected the lives of those dwelling in that area. Previous contributions to the discussion of the Holocene inundation of the North Sea have tended to concentrate on the timings. This paper discusses the ways people could have perceived and responded to these events, emphasizing that climate change should not be viewed apart from social factors. It is also argued that sea-level rise was not something externally imposed on communities but an integral part of their world.
Article
Criteria are presented for the identification of diagenetic alteration of carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of bone and tooth collagen prepared by a widely used method. Measurements of collagen concentrations in tooth and bone, atomic C:N ratios, and carbon and nitrogen concentrations in collagen of 359 historic and prehistoric African humans, and modern and prehistoric East African non-human mammals are described. Carbon isotope ratios of collagen lipids from four bones are also presented. Compared to bone, whole teeth have significantly lower collagen concentrations, lower carbon and nitrogen concentrations in collagen, and similar C:N ratios. Carbon and nitrogen concentrations and C:N ratios are relatively constant over a wide range of collagen concentrations. However, prehistoric specimens with very low collagen concentrations have highly variable C:N ratios, very low carbon and nitrogen concentrations in collagen, and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios unlike collagen. At the transition from well-preserved to poorly preserved collagen the most reliable indicator of collagen preservation is the concentration of carbon and nitrogen in collagen. Concentrations of C and N drop abruptly by an order of magnitude at this transition point. These attributes provide simple criteria for assessing sample quality. Since collagen preservation can vary greatly within prehistoric sites, these attributes should be reported for each specimen. Use of purification procedures that remove acid- and base-soluble contaminants and particulate matter (carbonates, fulvic acids, lipids, humic acids, sediments and rootlets) are recommended. Wider adoption of these procedures would insure comparability of results between laboratories, and permit independent and objective evaluation of sample preservation, and more precise dietary, climatic, and habitat interpretations of collagen isotopic analyses.
Article
REFERENCE: Baeteman, C., Waller, M. & Kiden, P. 2011: Reconstructing middle to late Holocene sea-level change: A methodological review with particular reference to ‘A new Holocene sea-level curve for the southern North Sea’ presented by K.-E. Behre. Boreas, 10.1111/j.1502-3885.2011.00207.x. ISSN 0300-9483. ABSTRACT: A number of disciplines are involved in the collection and interpretation of Holocene palaeoenvironmental data from coastal lowlands. For stratigraphic frameworks and the assessment of relative sea-level (RSL) change, many non-specialists rely on existing regional models. It is, however, important that they are aware of major developments in our understanding of the factors controlling coastal change and of the potential sources of error in sea-level reconstructions. These issues are explored through a critical evaluation of a new sea-level curve presented by Behre (2003, 2007) for the southern North Sea. In contrast to most sea-level curves published from this region over the last 20 years, the curve shows strong fluctuations that are interpreted as representing vertical movements of sea level. We present a detailed examination of the data used by Behre. From this analysis it is clear that many of the data points used are unsuitable for high-resolution (centimetre or decimetre) sea-level reconstruction. This paper also gives an overview of possible sources of error with respect to the age and altitude of sea-level index points and of changes in our understanding of the processes that underpin the interpretation of the organic and occupation levels used as index points. The constraints on the spatial scale over which sea-level reconstructions can be applied (changes in palaeotidal range and crustal movements) are also considered. Finally, we discuss whether the large-amplitude centennial-scale sea-level fluctuations proposed by Behre can be reconciled with the known mechanisms of sea-level change and other recent high-resolution studies from this region. We conclude that such fluctuations are highly unlikely to be real features of the sea-level history of the southern North Sea.
Article
Prey-predator collagen enrichment values for carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions are investigated. New enrichment values are given for the well-monitored ecosystem of Bialowieza primeval forest (Poland) for lynx and wolf. The impact of using different approximations in calculating such enrichment values is discussed. Several case studies of ancient vertebrate communities from Upper Palaeolithic sites in southwestern France are presented to check whether the enrichment values estimated for these past ecosystems are consistent with those measured in well-monitored modern ecosystems. The use of ranges of values rather than average ones is recommended, tentatively 0 to 2‰ for δ13C and 3 to 5‰ for δ15N. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.