A Multi-Isotope Investigation of Faunal Remains from Newgrange, Co. Meath: Deciphering Later Prehistoric Subsistence and Connectivity
PhD Candidate: Kate Evetts
Supervisor: Dr Jessica Smyth
Funding: Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar
The Newgrange passage tomb, Co. Meath, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on par with Stonehenge in terms of public fascination and notability. It was partially excavated in the 1960s, during which a large animal bone assemblage was revealed in front of the tomb entrance. This unusual occurrence, due to the rare survival of archaeological bone from Irish prehistory, presents a unique opportunity for study that can only recently be explored in more detail due to advances in biogeochemical approaches (Snoek et al. 2016; Ryan et al. 2018). This PhD will use isotope analyses applied to these faunal remains to investigate the diet (carbon, nitrogen) and mobility (strontium, oxygen, sulphur) of the associated animals; providing otherwise unavailable information on how the passage tomb was used in later prehistory after its construction, through the study of human activity by animal proxy. Earlier research determined the assemblage to date to the Early Bronze Age period (Wijngaarden-Bakker 1974), but recent work has suggested that it actually began accumulating soon after passage tomb construction; hence, provides the opportunity for long-term, detailed insight into subsistence and connectedness at Newgrange in later prehistory.
This will be the first detailed multi-isotope investigation carried out in Ireland, the results of which will be directly related to research conducted at connected sites such as Durrington Walls, Stonehenge (Madgwick et al. 2019). Important issues of subsistence and connectivity will be of prime interest within this project, which will be comparable to and important within future study of many connected sites in Wiltshire and Orkney. Finally, this project will transform the prehistoric Irish research landscape by lending data to multiple fields of study within archaeology and prehistory, and will also increase the amount of data and targeted evidence for the broader, important topic of European prehistoric subsistence activity (Bellwood 2005).