Investigating sheep mobility at Montale, Italy, through strontium isotope analyses

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  • Serena Sabatini
  • Karin Margarita Frei
  • Jacopo De Grossi Mazzorin
  • Andrea Cardarelli
  • Gianluca Pellacani
  • Frei, Robert

In recent years, extensive archaeological studies have provided us with new knowledge on wool and woollen textile production at the Terramare site of Montale, in the Po plain, northern Italy. The large number of textile tools, and of zooarchaeological evidence suggesting intense sheepherding, hints at Montale being a specialized centre of wool production during the local Middle and Recent Bronze Age. The aim of our study has been to investigate, by means of strontium isotope analyses, whether engagement in this economic activity was facilitated by mobile herding practices or by regional/interregional exchange/trade of animals. To this aim, we conducted 75 strontium isotope analyses of tooth enamel from 36 zoo-archaeological remains of as many sheep/goat individuals from all the 11 archaeological phases identified at Montale and of four from the neighbouring early Middle Bronze Age site of Baggiovara. We also created a multi-proxy baseline from environmental samples of the region around Montale to interpret the results of the analyses from the sheep/goat teeth. Strontium isotope analyses have proven to be a powerful tool for the investigation of mobility when relevant and well-established baselines are available; our results hint at sheep herded to a consistent extent in the territory surrounding the respective sites. The data obtained in this study support earlier works suggesting that the territory around Montale had a significant pastoral vocation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103298
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Access to the faunal remains and the soil samples from the archaeological excavations at Montale and Casinalbo was provided (thanks to the courtesy of the excavators Andrea Cardarelli and Gianluca Pellacani) by the Civic Museum of Modena, which we thank very much. Access to the isotope laboratory facilities at Danish Centre for Isotope Geology, University of Copenhagen was provided by Robert Frei, we wish to thank Cristina Jensen and Toby Leeper for various help in the lab at the same institution. This project has been supported by the Swedish Riksbankens Jubileumsfond under Project Grant P15-0591:1 Bronze Age Wool Economy: Production, trade, environment, herding and society. The analyses of the samples from Baggiovara were possible thanks to the generous support of the Berit Wallenberg Foundation under grant BWS 2014.0083.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)

    Research areas

  • Exchange, Mobility, Sheepherding, Terramare, Textile production, Tooth enamel, Wool

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