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Characterising life in settlements and structures: incorporating faecal lipid biomarkers within a multiproxy case study of a wetland village

Characterising life in settlements and structures: incorporating faecal lipid biomarkers within a multiproxy case study of a wetland village
Characterising life in settlements and structures: incorporating faecal lipid biomarkers within a multiproxy case study of a wetland village
Roundhouses are ubiquitous features of Iron Age landscapes across North West Europe, yet the way they were used internally is not well understood. We demonstrate how spatial analyses of steroid lipid biomarkers advances our understanding of household activities, living conditions and animal management associated with a well-preserved 5th century BCE roundhouse from Scotland's first Iron Age wetland village, Black Loch of Myrton, especially when combined with more traditional archaeological approaches. Faecal steroids (5β-stanols and bile acids) are well preserved within the wetland roundhouse floor deposits. Diffuse faecal inputs are identified within these deposits, limiting the resolution of faecal source discrimination compared with studies of concentrated faecal remains. However, analysis of both 5β-stanols and bile acids enables discrimination between ruminant (sheep, goat and cattle), pig and horse/human faecal remains. By integrating faunal data and entomological dung indicators we are able to characterise the on-site presence of animals associated with these archaeological structures. Steroids indicate short-lived and/or temporary pulses of dung deposition within the Iron Age roundhouse case study structure, which can be very difficult to determine using other archaeological proxies. Furthermore, our multiproxy results demonstrate the molecular preservation of steroids within deposits that have been subjected to regular floor cleaning, which is associated with the removal macrofossil proxies. Comparisons of multiproxy faecal signatures of the inner and outer sections of the structure show temporal and spatial heterogeneity in usage and living conditions. The faecal signature points to temporary sheltering of animals within the inner section of the structure. The multi-use and division of different activities within the roundhouse, determined by steroids, marks an important contribution to broader archaeological debates surrounding structures, their functions and re-use.
Animal husbandry, Bile acids, Faecal, Iron age, Palaeoecology, Settlement structures, Sterols, Wetland archaeology
0305-4403
Mackay, Helen
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Davies, Kimberley L.
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Robertson, Jack
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Roy, Lynne
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Bull, Ian D.
d9ba8a95-30cf-4f66-9d38-aae046d8349f
Whitehouse, Nicki J.
d288a39c-d57e-4852-b794-a8a3d7a2c403
Crone, Anne
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Cavers, Graeme
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Mccormick, Finbar
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Brown, Antony G.
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Henderson, Andrew C.G.
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Mackay, Helen
483b07c4-6dbb-49f9-abe5-b68aaa99e1f6
Davies, Kimberley L.
c4fd3544-262e-463f-9cc8-fc2c911aa269
Robertson, Jack
09a5fc01-9012-4b0b-af09-829e2e0406e3
Roy, Lynne
9091ca2b-be84-4cde-bbf3-31fe63114dff
Bull, Ian D.
d9ba8a95-30cf-4f66-9d38-aae046d8349f
Whitehouse, Nicki J.
d288a39c-d57e-4852-b794-a8a3d7a2c403
Crone, Anne
5ab19882-013d-4b21-bf51-b9d25aa4a8aa
Cavers, Graeme
04d59572-16c7-4dd7-a004-c5fb393a1745
Mccormick, Finbar
0a4bf5e7-97c7-40df-a64b-9fdb2f12dce0
Brown, Antony G.
c51f9d3e-02b0-47da-a483-41c354e78fab
Henderson, Andrew C.G.
aee669ce-a934-491e-af2c-876e89f83c8f

Mackay, Helen, Davies, Kimberley L., Robertson, Jack, Roy, Lynne, Bull, Ian D., Whitehouse, Nicki J., Crone, Anne, Cavers, Graeme, Mccormick, Finbar, Brown, Antony G. and Henderson, Andrew C.G. (2020) Characterising life in settlements and structures: incorporating faecal lipid biomarkers within a multiproxy case study of a wetland village. Journal of Archaeological Science, 121, [105202]. (doi:10.1016/j.jas.2020.105202).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Roundhouses are ubiquitous features of Iron Age landscapes across North West Europe, yet the way they were used internally is not well understood. We demonstrate how spatial analyses of steroid lipid biomarkers advances our understanding of household activities, living conditions and animal management associated with a well-preserved 5th century BCE roundhouse from Scotland's first Iron Age wetland village, Black Loch of Myrton, especially when combined with more traditional archaeological approaches. Faecal steroids (5β-stanols and bile acids) are well preserved within the wetland roundhouse floor deposits. Diffuse faecal inputs are identified within these deposits, limiting the resolution of faecal source discrimination compared with studies of concentrated faecal remains. However, analysis of both 5β-stanols and bile acids enables discrimination between ruminant (sheep, goat and cattle), pig and horse/human faecal remains. By integrating faunal data and entomological dung indicators we are able to characterise the on-site presence of animals associated with these archaeological structures. Steroids indicate short-lived and/or temporary pulses of dung deposition within the Iron Age roundhouse case study structure, which can be very difficult to determine using other archaeological proxies. Furthermore, our multiproxy results demonstrate the molecular preservation of steroids within deposits that have been subjected to regular floor cleaning, which is associated with the removal macrofossil proxies. Comparisons of multiproxy faecal signatures of the inner and outer sections of the structure show temporal and spatial heterogeneity in usage and living conditions. The faecal signature points to temporary sheltering of animals within the inner section of the structure. The multi-use and division of different activities within the roundhouse, determined by steroids, marks an important contribution to broader archaeological debates surrounding structures, their functions and re-use.

Text
Mackay_et_al._JAS_Revised_June_2020 (1)
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 8 July 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 25 July 2020
Published date: 1 September 2020
Keywords: Animal husbandry, Bile acids, Faecal, Iron age, Palaeoecology, Settlement structures, Sterols, Wetland archaeology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 443764
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/443764
ISSN: 0305-4403
PURE UUID: 839883f2-d1e3-40f5-856f-932a7fba177a
ORCID for Antony G. Brown: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1990-4654

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Date deposited: 11 Sep 2020 16:30
Last modified: 18 Feb 2021 17:08

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