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Palaeoproteomics identifies beaver fur in Danish high-status Viking Age burials - direct evidence of fur trade.

Published version
Peer-reviewed

Type

Article

Change log

Authors

Brandt, Luise Ørsted  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9777-0356
Taurozzi, Alberto J  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0378-1626
Sinding, Mikkel-Holger S  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1371-219X
Vieira, Filipe Garrett 

Abstract

Fur is known from contemporary written sources to have been a key commodity in the Viking Age. Nevertheless, the fur trade has been notoriously difficult to study archaeologically as fur rarely survives in the archaeological record. In Denmark, fur finds are rare and fur in clothing has been limited to a few reports and not recorded systematically. We were therefore given access to fur from six Danish high status graves dated to the Viking Age. The fur was analysed by aDNA and palaeoproteomics methods to identify the species of origin in order to explore the Viking Age fur trade. Endogenous aDNA was not recovered, but fur proteins (keratins) were analysed by MALDI-TOF-MS and LC-MS/MS. We show that Viking Age skin clothing were often composites of several species, showing highly developed manufacturing and material knowledge. For example, fur was produced from wild animals while leather was made of domesticates. Several examples of beaver fur were identified, a species which is not native to Denmark, and therefore indicative of trade. We argue that beaver fur was a luxury commodity, limited to the elite and worn as an easily recognisable indicator of social status.

Description

Keywords

Animals, Burial, Chromatography, Liquid, Denmark, Rodentia, Tandem Mass Spectrometry

Journal Title

PLoS One

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

1932-6203
1932-6203

Volume Title

17

Publisher

Public Library of Science (PLoS)