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Article Reference Evidence for early cat taming in Egypt
The remains are described of a young small felid found in a Predynastic burial at Hierakonpolis, Upper Egypt. Osteometric and zoogeographical arguments indicate that the specimen, dated to around 3700 B.C. on the basis of the associated pottery, belongs to Felis silvestris. In the same cemetery several other animal species, both wild and domestic, have been found. The left humerus and right femur of the cat show healed fractures indicating that the animal had been held in captivity for at least 4e6 weeks prior to its burial. We believe that this pathology suggests early cat taming more convincingly than a buried cat recently reported from Neolithic Cyprus (7500 B.C.). Such taming events were probably part of the processes that eventually led to the domestication of Felis silvestris. However, the absence of the cat in Predynastic and Early Dynastic depictions and its rare attestation in the archaeozoological record indicates that domestic status had not yet been attained during those early periods. Other species that were also held in captivity by Ancient Egyptians probably never became domesticated because they had one or more characteristics that prevented it.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Brassicaceae seed oil identified as illuminant in Nilotic shells from a first millennium AD Coptic church in Bawit, Egypt
Burned greasy deposits were found inside shells of the large Nile bivalve Chambardia rubens, excavated in an eight- to tenth- century AD church of the Coptic monastery of Bawit, Egypt, and supposedly used as oil lamps. The residues were subjected to a combination of chromatographic residue analysis techniques. The rather high concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids, as analysed by gas chromatography (GC) in the methylated extract, suggest the presence of a vegetal oil. Analysis of the stable carbon isotopes (δ13C values) of the methyl esters also favoured plants over animals as the lipid source. In the search for biomarkers by GC coupled to mass spectrometry on a silylated extract, a range of diacids together with high concentrations of 13,14-dihydroxydocosanoate and 11,12- dihydroxyeicosanoate were found. These compounds are oxidation products of erucic acid and gondoic acid, which are abundantly present in seeds of Brassicaceae plants. Liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry analysis showed low concentrations of unaltered triglycerides, but revealed sizeable amounts of triglycerides with at least one dihydroxylated acyl chain. The unusual preservation of dihydroxylated triglycerides and α,ω-dicarboxylic acids can be related to the dry preservation conditions. Analysis of the stereoisomers of the dihydroxylated fatty acids allows one to determine whether oxidation took place during burning of the fuel or afterwards. The results prove that the oil of rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) or radish (Raphanus sativus L.) was used as illuminant in early Islamic Egypt, and that not only ceramic lamps but also mollusk shells were used as fuel containers.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Detecting the medieval cod trade: a new method and first results
This paper explores the potential of stable isotope analysis to identify the approximate region of catch of cod by analysing bones from medieval settlements in northern and western Europe. It measures the d13C and d15N values of cod bone collagen from medieval control samples collected from sites around Arctic Norway, the North Sea, the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea. These data were considered likely to differ by region due to, for example, variation in the length of the food chain, water temperature and salinity. We find that geographical structuring is indeed evident, making it possible to identify bones from cod caught in distant waters. These results provide a new methodology for studying the growth of long-range trade in dried cod and the related expansion of fishing effortdimportant aspects of the development of commercialisation in medieval Europe. As a first test of the method, we analyse three collections of cod bones tentatively interpreted as imported dried fish based on a priori zooarchaeological criteria. The results tentatively suggest that cod were being transported or traded over very long distances since the end of the first millennium AD.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference First archaeozoological evidence for haimation, the ‘invisible’ garum
The fish remains are described that were found at the bottom of an Early Roman ceramic jar from Aila Aqaba, Jordan. The bones, representing the gill apparatuses of at least 33 medium-sized tunas (Auxis; Scombridae) and a single individual of a lizardfish (Trachinocephalus myops; Synodontidae), are believed to correspond to haimation. This highly prized fish sauce, documented previously only from ancient textual evidence, was typically made from the gills and the entrails of tunnids to which salt was added. The sauce was not imported from the Mediterranean or the Black Sea, but made from local Red Sea fish as shown by the zoogeographical distribution of the lizardfish that is considered as stomach content of the tunas. Because the fish bones were found in a locally produced jar and because the calculated volume of the haimation that the bones represent corresponds more or less to the volume of the jar, it is concluded that this high-quality garum was produced in this container at Aila itself.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Early cat taming in Egypt: a correction
A cat skeleton from a Predynastic burial in Egypt that was previously labelled as Felis silvestris is reidentified as Felis chaus. This means that the previous claim needs to be withdrawn that the specimen represents early evidence for taming of Felis silvestris that ultimately led to domestication. However, the statement that the small felid has been held in captivity for several weeks, based on the presence of healed fractures, is still valid.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference The Holocene occurrence of the European catfish Silurus glanis in Belgium: the archaeozoological evidence
An overview is given of the skeletal remains of the European catfish Silurus glanis found thus far in Belgian archaeological sites. These finds demonstrate that the species is autochthonous and allow documenting its occurrence and disappearance during the Holocene in the Scheldt and Meuse basins. Possible causes for the local extinction of this catfish are discussed.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Late 17th century faunal remains from the Dutch Fort Frederik Hendrik at Mauritius
The fauna is described from a refuse layer, excavated at Fort Frederik Hendrik on the island of Mauritius and dating to the last quarter of the 17th century AD. The animal remains enable the reconstruction of the food procurement strategies of the Dutch inhabitants of the fort and document the fauna at a time when the island’s original fauna had apparently already suffered heavily from human interference and from the negative impact of introduced species. The animal remains do not include any bones from the dodo, or other endemic birds, and neither is there evidence for the exploitation of the large, endemic terrestrial tortoises, also now extinct. Dugong, which are locally extinct nowadays, and marine turtles were also exploited as food, but the major meat providers were the introduced mammals: cattle, pigs, and especially, goat and Java deer. Fish was also a regular food resource and must have been caught in the local lagoon and estuaries. The absence of parrotfish and the relatively small size of the groupers suggest avoidance of these food items, probably out of fear of fish poisoning.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Special animals from a special place? The fauna from HK29A at Predynastic Hierakonpolis
Locality HK29A at Predynastic Hierakonpolis has been identified as a ceremonial center based on archaeological, architectural and macrobotanical data, although alternative functions as a feasting or butchery site have also been proposed. Animal bone assemblages excavated at the locality in the 1980s and in 2002 have been studied and are compared in detail to those from other localities at Hierakonpolis, as well as from other Predynastic sites in Upper and Lower Egypt. The comparisons show that HK29A shares several features with other Upper Egyptian sites, which can be related to their similar ecological settings. The fauna from Hierakonpolis settlement localities in general, including HK29A, show some peculiarities that distinguish them from other Predynastic sites in Upper Egypt, which may be explained by the status of the site as a large and powerful center. More importantly, the comparisons clearly show that the fauna from HK29A has some unique features not shared with any other locality at Hierakonpolis. They are argued to reflect a variety of symbolic roles that animals had, which probably changed throughout the period of use of the locality. Moreover, the faunal remains testify of the high social status of the people taking part in the clearly special activities at HK29A.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) Pellets from Roman Sagalassos (SW Turkey): Distinguishing the Prey Remains from Nest and Roost Sites
Two concentrations of animal bones, almost exclusively from small mammals and wild birds, were found within the destruction debris of a Roman bath complex in Sagalassos (SW Turkey). The overall species spectrum, skeletal element representation, fragmentation and preservation condition of the bones indicate that they represent the prey remains of a large nocturnal avian predator, more precisely the eagle owl (Bubo bubo). Differences in skeletal element representation and in prey species’ spectrum show that the two bone clusters derive from pellets deposited near a nest site and a roost site, respectively. Radiocarbon dates obtained from the bones indicate that eagle owls lived in the collapsing bath complex during the second half of the 6th to the beginning of the 7th century AD, before the final abandonment of the town. The MNI of the prey animals found at the nest site, confronted with the daily dietary needs of a female eagle owl and its young, indicates repetitive use of the same place during several years.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications
Article Reference Palaeoecology of the Giant Catfish (Arius gigas, Ariidae) in Holocene Saharan and tropical West African waters
The Giant Catfish Arius gigas is an endemic species of West African freshwaters that is almost extinct today, and its way of life is poorly known to ichthyologists. However, this species is known from the Holocene archaeofaunal record, in particular from the Niger basin. The skeletal anatomy of the Giant Catfish described in this paper should facilitate its future identification within palaeo-ichthyological assemblages. In addition, the species’ occurrence is studied from a palaeogeographical and palaeoecological point of view. A. gigas certainly has ecological requirements similar to the related large carnivorous fish inhabiting well oxygenated waters, and would not tolerate shallow, muddy and stagnant ecotopes of marginal waterways. By over fishing such a large species, humans contribute to the lowering of its reproduction potential, and to its recent drastic decline.
Located in Library / RBINS Staff Publications