Variability in Neolithic Cattle Populations: a Case Study from the Orkney Islands

Author(s): Margaret Homko

Year: 2015


The Orkney archipelago, at the northern end of Scotland, has a rich and well preserved record of Neolithic settlement. Radiocarbon dates from northern Scotland indicate the establishment of farming communities quite soon after those in southern England. However, the process by which agriculturalists reached these far northern territories is still not well understood. Faunal analysts (Watson 1931, Noddle 1983) have drawn attention to an apparent distinction in morphology between the cattle imported into Orkney and those found in Neolithic settings in southern England. This study examines size characteristics of Orkney cattle, comparing them with published data from southern England to test the hypothesis that they represent a separate and distinct population. If true, the inference might be that the initial agriculturalists in each region originated from different points on the European continent. Additionally, cattle from the Early and Late Neolithic stages on Orkney are compared to evaluate the possibility of new livestock introductions at the transition between cultural phases. The analysis of livestock remains from the Orkney Neolithic can potentially address issues regarding the arrival and establishment of agriculture in the northern regions of Great Britain, and, by implication, the migration patterns of the Neolithic inhabitants of northwestern Europe.

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Variability in Neolithic Cattle Populations: a Case Study from the Orkney Islands. Margaret Homko. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397874)

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Spatial Coverage

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