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The Salmon of Knowledge: Determining the influence of marine-derived isotopes on the diets of medieval and early modern Irish populations

Author(s): Elise Alonzi ; Terry O'Hagan ; Ryan Lash ; Ian Kuijt ; Anne Wildenhain

Year: 2015

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Many medieval and early modern villages and abbeys in County Galway, Ireland are situated directly on the coast. This study seeks to understand the pathways that marine resources follow as they enter diets of religious and lay Irish populations by using isotopic, ethnographic, and historical evidence. The isotopic portion of this study elucidates how marine-derived isotopes cycle through the coastal Irish landscape and are included in the diet. Ecological sampling on the Atlantic island, Inishark, addresses the impact of the little-understood Seaspray Effect on terrestrial resources. Because strontium isotopic ratios are theoretically constant throughout the world’s oceans, sprayed ocean water coating plants and soil may mask terrestrial bedrock-based strontium isotopic ratios that are used to determine human diet and mobility. As one of the most westerly points of Europe, Inishark experiences strong seaspray and is a prime location to evaluate the impact of ocean water on crops grown in coastal fields. A chemical mixing equation calculates the proportion of marine and terrestrial isotopic contributions to coastal Irish diets. This study provides a basis for interpreting strontium isotopes in other coastal regions, as well as a contextualized understanding of the marine component of early modern and medieval Irish diets.

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The Salmon of Knowledge: Determining the influence of marine-derived isotopes on the diets of medieval and early modern Irish populations. Elise Alonzi, Ryan Lash, Terry O'Hagan, Anne Wildenhain, Ian Kuijt. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396998)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America