Reconstructing Aquatic Resource Exploitation in Human Prehistory using Lipid Biomarkers and Stable Isotopes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

Abstract

From the prehistoric period through to recent times, communities inhabiting shoreline settlements made wide use of the resources offered by these rich environments. However, finding direct evidence for the role of shellfish, fish and aquatic mammals and birds in the archaeological record brings a series of challenges arising from the biases against the representation of aquatic resources in archaeological assemblages or recorded in human tissues. Until recently, this was also thought to be the case for lipid residues preserved in pottery, due to the rapid degradation of diagnostic polyunsaturated components; however, recent developments in the past decade have revealed a series of more stable lipid biomarkers that can uncover evidence for processing of aquatic products in pottery with unrivalled sensitivity. This chapter reviews these recent, significant developments in the field, including the use of experiments using modern fats to verify the biomarker and stable isotope proxies that underpin this approach. We end with some case studies that demonstrate the utility of biomarker and stable isotope proxies for addressing some major archaeological questions through revealing evidence for processing of aquatic resources by prehistoric humans.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTreatise on Geochemistry
Subtitle of host publicationArchaeology and Anthropology
EditorsHD Holland, KK Turekian
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherAmsterdam:Elsevier
Pages319-339
Volume12
Edition2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • archaeology
  • anthropology
  • marine
  • aquatic
  • lipids
  • biomarkers
  • stable isotopes
  • fatty acids

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    Cramp, L. J. E., & Evershed, R. P. (2014). Reconstructing Aquatic Resource Exploitation in Human Prehistory using Lipid Biomarkers and Stable Isotopes. In HD. Holland, & KK. Turekian (Eds.), Treatise on Geochemistry: Archaeology and Anthropology (2 ed., Vol. 12, pp. 319-339). Amsterdam:Elsevier.