Heading for the hills? A multi-isotope study of sheep management in first-millennium BC Italy
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports
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Trentacoste, A., Lightfoot, E., Le Roux, P., Buckley, M., Kansa, S., Esposito, C., & Gleba, M. (2020). Heading for the hills? A multi-isotope study of sheep management in first-millennium BC Italy. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 29 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.102036
Livestock husbandry played a fundamental role in the economy of ancient Mediterranean communities. In central Italy, archaeological evidence for a significant re-organisation of animal production appears during the first millennium BC alongside the rise of urban settlements and an aristocratic class. Urban sites are interpreted as having a central role in the organisation of agricultural production, through control over their territories and the re-distribution/exchange of agricultural products. However, these hypotheses have never been bio-archaeologically demonstrated. Here, we present a detailed multi-isotope pilot study of sheep management and mobility – the first isotopic study dedicated to fauna from late prehistoric or Roman Italy – which investigates animal management and agricultural provisioning in two Etruscan sites (675–430 BC). We used ZooMS to confirm species identifications, and isotopic analyses (87Sr/86Sr, δ18O, δ13C, and δ15N) to gain insight into differences in animal management at the ancient city of Velzna (5th century BC), modern Orvieto, and the aristocratic residence of Poggio Civitate (7th century BC). Results demonstrate that Orvieto received sheep raised in at least three distinct locations, while data from Poggio Civitate were compatible with herding in a single area. These results reinforce interpretation of Orvieto as a central place that collected resources from its hinterland, while Poggio Civitate employed a more isolated productive strategy. Analyses did not produce evidence for long-distance vertical transhumance at either site, with results suggesting more local variation in herding patterns, consistent with seasonal herding in the general hinterland of each location. This pilot study offers a first step towards higher-resolution understanding of animal management in the region, and demonstrates the potential of further isotopic studies to provide new insights on agricultural provisioning and territorial control in proto-historic Italy.
Research leading to these results has been funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013-312603), the project Production and Consumption: Textile Economy and Urbanisation in Mediterranean Europe 1000-500 BCE (PROCON), and a research grant from the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (University of Cambridge). Zooarchaeological research at Orvieto has been supported by the Craven Committee (University of Oxford), Michael Zilkha Trust at Lincoln College, and Association for Environmental Archaeology. The work of EL was supported by the TwoRains project which was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement number 648609).
European Research Council (312603)
ECH2020 EUROPEAN RESEARCH COUNCIL (ERC) (648609)
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.102036
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/297861
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Licence URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/