Investigating Neolithic caprine husbandry in the Central Pyrenees: Insights from a multi-proxy study at Els Trocs cave (Bisaurri, Spain)

Tejedor-Rodríguez, Cristina and Moreno-García, Marta and Tornero, Carlos and Hoffmann, Alizé and García-Martínez de Lagrán, Íñigo and Arcusa-Magallón, Héctor and Garrido-Pena, Rafael and Royo-Guillén, José Ignacio and Díaz-Navarro, Sonia and Peña-Chocarro, Leonor and Alt, Kurt W. and Rojo-Guerra, Manuel. (2021) Investigating Neolithic caprine husbandry in the Central Pyrenees: Insights from a multi-proxy study at Els Trocs cave (Bisaurri, Spain). PLoS ONE, 16 (1). e0244139.

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Sheep remains constitute the main archaeozoological evidence for the presence of Early Neolithic human groups in the highlands of the Southern Pyrenees but understanding the role of herding activities in the Neolithisation process of this mountain ecosystem calls for the analysis of large and well-dated faunal assemblages. Cova de Els Trocs (Bisaurri, Huesca, Spain), a cave located at 1564 m a.s.l on the southern slopes of the Central Pyrenees, is an excellent case study since it was seasonally occupied throughout the Neolithic (ca. 5312-2913 cal. BC) and more than 4000 caprine remains were recovered inside. The multi-proxy analytical approach here presented has allowed us to offer new data elaborating on vertical mobility practices and herd management dynamics as has not been attempted up until now within Neolithic high-mountain sites in the Iberian Peninsula. For the first time, δ18O and δ13C stable isotope analyses offer direct evidence on both the regular practice of altitudinal movements of sheep flocks and the extended breeding season of sheep. Autumn births are recorded from the second half of the fifth millennium cal. BC onwards. Age-at-death distributions illustrate the progressive decline in caprine perinatal mortality together with the rising survival rate of individuals older than six months of age and the larger frequency of adults. This trend alongside the 'off-season' lambing signal at the implementation of husbandry techniques over time, probably aiming to increase the size of the flocks and their productivity. Palaeoparasitological analyses of sediment samples document also the growing reliance on herding activities of the human groups visiting the Els Trocs cave throughout the Neolithic sequence. In sum, our work provides substantial arguments to conclude that the advanced herding management skills of the Early Neolithic communities arriving in Iberia facilitated the anthropisation process of the subalpine areas of the Central Pyrenees.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Integrative Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie (IPNA Schünemann)
UniBasel Contributors:Alt, Kurt W.
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Public Library of Science
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:07 Apr 2022 13:49
Deposited On:07 Apr 2022 13:49

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