Neolithic Ness of Brodgar Post-excavation Research Zooarchaeology

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

Professor Ingrid Mainland and Nick Card are among the authors of a new paper on the faunal remains from the Ness of Brodgar.
North Ronaldsay Sheep

A new paper based on the research of UHI Archaeology Institute PhD candidate Magdalena Blanz is now available to download.

Life, Death and Teeth of Late Neolithic Sheep and Red Deer Excavated at Ness of Brodgar details a study of sheep and deer mandibles/teeth from the Neolithic complex, which were examined to construct age-at-death profiles and analysed for evidence of seaweed consumption.

Trench P at the Ness of Brodgar. (Hugo Anderson Whymark)
Trench P at the Ness of Brodgar. (Hugo Anderson Whymark)

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 only three of the 17 sheep had consumed seaweed. 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.

Among the co-authors are the UHI Archaeology Institute’s Professor Ingrid Mainland (who was Magdalena’s PhD supervisor) and Nick Card (director of the Ness of Brodgar excavation).

Magdalena’s PhD was funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland’s Workforce in the Scotland 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme. She would like to thank Dr Helen Aiton and Anne Mitchell for their assistance as well as the Ness of Brodgar excavation team.