New paper: Life and death of sheep and deer at the Ness of Brodgar

The Stones of Stenness. (📷 Sigurd Towrie)

A new paper on the faunal remains from the Ness of Brodgar is available now.

Life, Death and Teeth of Late Neolithic Sheep and Red Deer Excavated at Ness of Brodgar, by Magdalena Blanz, Marie Balasse, Nick Card, Philippa Ascough, Denis Fiorillo, Mark A. Taggart, Jörg Feldmann and Ingrid Mainland, is published in the journal Environmental Archaeology. Click here to download.

The study saw mandibles and loose teeth from sheep and red deer from the Ness examined to construct age-at-death profiles and analysed for evidence of seaweed consumption.

The results revealed that most sheep at the Ness of Brodgar died between the ages of two and four, with a notable lack of very young and old animals. This suggests they had been raised elsewhere and prime-aged animals brought to the site specifically for their meat.

Isotopic analysis of the teeth showed that the majority had no evidence of seaweed consumption. This, together with the scarcity of marine animal remains on site, supports previous suggestions that marine resources did not play a major role at the Ness of Brodgar complex.

The scarcity of seaweed-eating sheep at the Ness compared to other sites also suggests differences in husbandry practices across Orkney and that seaweed consumption was not a blanket adaptation to the islands’ coastal environment.

Red deer appear to have had a special status at the Ness of Brodgar with red deer mandibles and loose teeth only found in and around Structure Ten. None of the analysed deer had consumed measurable amounts of seaweed, potentially indicating differing grazing ranges, e.g. restriction of red deer habitats to upland areas.

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