Name: David Osborne
Thesis Title: Moving with the times: diet and mobility of people and animals in prehistoric Lincolnshire
The prehistoric sites of Lincolnshire were last surveyed in a monograph by May (1976). While a new overview is in preparation (Chowne, forthcoming) faunal remains from these sites have received little analysis or synthesis. As a result, the region is lacking important bio-cultural information that can be obtained through the study of human-animal relationships (Sykes 2014). My PhD research will integrate zooarchaeology, stable isotope analysis and database modelling to generate a new understanding of how the prehistoric communities of Lincolnshire behaved and developed from the Neolithic to the end of the Bronze Age.
This research meshes with the current research focus of the Bioarchaeology Lab in the University of Nottingham’s Department of Classics and Archaeology — Lincolnshire is being used as a ‘time-core’ for three of its AHRC-funded projects examining isotope data over the longue durée. All the isotope analysis and database work will be undertaken in collaboration with the NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory (NIGL), where I was trained in isotope analysis as part of my MSc.
Lincolnshire comprises an environmental mosaic of limestone uplands, chalk wolds, river valleys, marshes and fenland. This facilitates different kinds of settlement and resource management but how this complexity was negotiated in prehistory is little understood. Yet the region contains a large number and diversity of prehistoric sites — from Neolithic causewayed enclosures and Bronze Age burial mounds to Iron Age settlements — many of which have yielded faunal remains that allow investigations of human-animal-landscape interactions. My research project will re-analyse, synthesise and interrogate the zooarchaeological data to transform understanding of how Lincolnshire operated in prehistory.
Following methods tested successfully in other areas of Britain (e.g. Viner et al. 2010; Madgwick & Mulville 2015) I will combine zooarchaeological evidence with isotope analysis (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur, strontium) to reconstruct husbandry regimes and explore the dynamics of animal (and by proxy human) diet and mobility. To model these data and examine them within a national context, I will create and populate a new on-line repository for isotope results. This will also contain published and ‘grey literature’ datasets that have never been synthesised before. Statistical, data visualisation and mapping services will be used to increase the interpretative value of the isotope results, for instance investigating whether Lincolnshire exhibits trends consistent with the rest of the British Isles.
Archaeological and environmental scientists have long been calling for the establishment of a searchable isotope data repository, as it is a requirement of many funders that datasets are Open Access. As a by-product of my research, I will meet the community’s needs whilst also supporting Critical Priority 5 of Historic England’s prehistory research strategy, ‘improving access to unpublished data’, as well as Theme PR5, ‘realising the full potential of scientific techniques’ (English Heritage 2010).
Chowne, P. (forthcoming). Prehistoric Lincolnshire: archaeology and landscape. Lincoln: History of Lincolnshire Committee.
English Heritage (2010). Research Strategy for Prehistory. Consultation Draft, June 2010. https://content.historicengland.org.uk/content/docs/research/draft-prehistoric-strategy.pdf
Madgwick, R. and Mulville, J. (2015). Feasting on fore-limbs: conspicuous consumption and identity in later prehistoric Britain. Antiquity 89, 629–644.
May, J. (1976). Prehistoric Lincolnshire. Lincoln: History of Lincolnshire Committee.
Sykes, N. (2014) Beastly questions: Animal answers to archaeological issues. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Viner, S., Evans, J., Albarella, U. and Parker Pearson, M. (2010). Cattle mobility in prehistoric Britain: strontium isotope analysis of cattle teeth from Durrington Walls (Wiltshire, Britain). Journal of Archaeological Science 37, 2812–2820.
Supervisors and Institution(s):
Dr Hannah O'Regan, University of Nottingham
Prof Mark Gillings, University of Leicester
- Miller, H., Carden, R. F., Evans, J., Lamb, A., Madgwick, R., Osborne, D., Symmons, R. and Sykes, N. (2015) Dead or alive? Investigating long-distance transport of live fallow deer and their body parts in antiquity. Environmental Archaeology 21:3, 246–259, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1179/1749631414Y.0000000043
Osborne, D. (2017) Imports and isotopes: a modern baseline study for interpreting Iron Age and Roman trade in fallow deer antlers. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 27(1): Art. 10, pp. 1–15, DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/pia-482
Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:
- Antlers and isotopes: assessing short-term dietary change from 13C and 15N stable isotope analysis of fallow deer antlers. Poster presentation, UK Archaeological Sciences Conference, 11–14 April 2013, Cardiff University.
- Tracking the elusive fallow deer: exploring stable isotope evidence for imports during the Iron Age and Roman periods in Britain. Paper presented at PZAF 2014 (Postgraduate Zooarchaeology Forum), Institute of Archaeology, University College London.
- Should I stay or should I go? Mobility and settlement in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain. Paper presented at Midlands3Cities Research Festival, Birmingham.
- Should I stay or should I go? Mobility and settlement in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain. Paper presented at Link18 multidisciplinary conference, University of Nottingham.
- Exploring mobility in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain. Paper presented at 24th annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists, University of Barcelona.
- Exploring changes in mobility in Neolithic and Bronze Age Britain. Paper presented at 5th annual Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Students' Symposium, University of Manchester.
- The Prehistoric Society: member since 2011
- The Association for Environmental Archaeology: member since 2012
- The European Association of Archaeologists: member since 2018
Other Research Interests:
- Stable isotopes
- Data analysis, statistics and visualisation
- Computer applications in archaeology
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