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From texts to teeth: A multi-isotope study of sheep and goat herding practices in the Late Bronze Age (‘Mycenaean’) polity of Knossos, Crete
- Isaakidou, Valasia, Styring, Amy, Halstead, Paul, Nitsch, Erika, Stroud, Elizabeth, le Roux, Petrus, Lee-Thorp, Julia, Bogaard, Amy
- Journal of archaeological science: Reports 2019 v.23 pp. 36-56
- altitude, archaeology, bioavailability, carbon, diet, ecosystems, flocks, forage, goats, herding, life history, oxygen, sheep, stable isotopes, strontium, summer, tooth enamel, winter, wool production, Crete
- Linear B administrative documents of the late second millennium BC from urban Knossos, Crete, reveal that spatially extensive and centrally monitored sheep flocks and wool production played a fundamental role in Mycenaean palatial economy. Here we employ multi-isotope (δ13C, δ18O, 87Sr/86Sr) analysis of sequentially sampled sheep and goat tooth enamel bioapatite to explore life histories of animals consumed at Knossos. Interpretation of isotopic results incorporates new baseline data on 87Sr/86Sr ratios of bioavailable Sr from modern Cretan plants collected in relevant zones. Results reveal a variety of herding regimes, including seasonal (‘wet/winter’ to ‘dry/summer’) vertical movement of sheep from lowland to highland locations, more restricted mobility for goats in lowland to mid-altitude territories, possible input of fodder to goat diet, and exploitation of a range of plant ecosystems. Results broadly match documentary evidence and ethnographic/ecological expectations for sheep and goat herding at varying scales and underline the role of Knossos in mobilising resources from a range of herding systems and territories.