Sequential isotopic (δ13C, δ18O) analysis in sheep tooth enamel: inferring breeding strategies and altitudinal herd movements

Dr. Carlos Tornero a Postdo from the Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES), Spain, will present this week's Archaeology Seminar, with a talk entitled, "Sequential isotopic (δ13C, δ18O) analysis in sheep tooth enamel: inferring breeding strategies and altitudinal herd movements"

Sequences of δ18O values deriving from sequentially sampled tooth enamel carbonate from sheep molars has been successfully applied to reconstruct seasonality of birth. The talk portrays its application with new data on Near East sheep domestication and its diffusion throughout Eastern and Western Europe. The talk will also consider the potential of opposed distribution of maximum and minimum peaks in the δ18O and δ13C values of bioapatite sequences interpreted as evidence of altitudinal herd movements. This pattern was first described in muflon specimens recovered from the Epigravettian season hunting campsite of Kalavan 1, in the Aregunyats mountain chain in northeastern Armenia. Data is interpreted on a seasonal basis as a result of muflon migrations from lowland areas occupied in winter to higher altitude meadows during summer. This dataset strengthens the previous interpretations for Kalavan 1 and contributes to an understanding of the pattern of occupation of mountain territories by Epigravettian communities. Following this discovery, altitudinal herd movements performed by Early Neolithic groups in the Iberian Peninsula are investigated at the high-altitude Neolithic site of Els Trocs, located in the Central Pyrenees (1600 m.a.s.l.). Modern sheep specimens from the last flocks that still perform this activity in this region were also analyzed, and tooth series were interpreted on a seasonal basis according to the data obtained from rainfall distribution seasonal patterns in sampled δ18O of meteoric water, vegetation changes and δ13C values in sampled pastures along the altitudinal gradient in the area. This analytical approach allows recognition of vertical seasonal movements in early Neolithic sheep introduced in the Iberian Peninsula by a similar relationship with the sequential carbon and oxygen series observed in tooth molars of modern specimens.

About the speaker

Carlos Tornero is a Post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) in Tarragona, Spain. His research has been focused on the integration of stable isotope analyses in zooarchaeological studies.

Tue, 23 Aug 2016 - 13:00

Teaching Studio 3.10, Beattie Building, Upper Campus, UCT