‘Celtic cowboys’ reborn: Application of multi-isotopic analysis (δ<sup>13</sup>C, δ<sup>15</sup>N, and δ<sup>34</sup>S) to examine mobility and movement of animals within an Iron Age British society

Publication date: January 2019

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 101

Author(s): W. Derek Hamilton, Kerry L. Sayle, Marcus O.E. Boyd, Colin C. Haselgrove, Gordon T. Cook


This paper presents the results of δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S isotope analyses on archaeological faunal remains from deposits dated c. 400–200 cal BCE at two Iron Age sites in Wessex: Suddern Farm and Danebury hillfort, Hampshire. The aim was to investigate diet and mobility within the populations and across a range of animal species. The results demonstrate a significant level of mobility within the Iron Age, with around 20% of the terrestrial herbivores either having been reared off the chalkland and brought to the sites from perhaps 150–200 km away or moving between isotopically distinct areas throughout much of their life and presenting a ‘mixed’ isotopic signal. The results lead us to suggest that the old paradigm that views most Iron Age people as leading relatively sedentary lives should be re-evaluated, and new models be considered that allow for regular movements by a portion of the population over much larger distances than hitherto considered in this period of prehistory.