Animal Husbandry in the Intertidal Zone: A Stable Isotope Approach to Changing Subsistence Strategies in the Belgian Coastal Plain

Animal Husbandry in the Intertidal Zone: A Stable Isotope Approach to Changing Subsistence Strategies in the Belgian Coastal Plain

Intertidal zones were rich natural resources before land reclamation completely changed their ecology and economic use. The history of their exploitation can provide a better understanding of the interactions between humans and their natural environment.

The occupation history of the Belgian Coastal Plain in the 1st millennium AD has long been viewed as governed entirely by sea-level changes. More recent approaches emphasise the varying intensity of human activity. Human groups had probably been actively changing the coastal ecosystem in this area prior to the documented high medieval land claim schemes, and did so consciously evaluating the economic return. This project will investigate the human activity in the Belgian Coastal Plain, from the Roman to the Late Medieval period, by reconstructing animal management through isotope analyses of herbivore bone and teeth. This approach will test the intensity of coastal exploitation and identify changes in human subsistence strategies that may have come as a result of man-made environmental change.

This project builds on my previous work on the detection of salt-marsh grazing in the Severn Estuary in the late prehistoric period using stable isotope methods, and is part of a larger ongoing collaborative project with Dr. Gundula Müldner (University of Reading) on salt-marsh grazing and coastal agriculture in North-West Europe.

Photo: Peter Rowley-Conwy (Durham University)

Funding, Project Partners and Related Publications

Funding and Project Partners

This project is funded by a British Academy Small Grant (co-PI with Dr. Gundula Müldner, University of Reading, and in collaboration with Dr. Anton Ervynck, Flemish Heritage Institute).

Related Publications

  • Mueldner, G., Britton, K. & Ervynck, A. (2014). 'Inferring Animal Husbandry Strategies in Coastal Zones through Stable Isotope Analysis: New Evidence from the Flemish Coastal Plain (Belgium, 1st - 15th century AD)'. Journal of Archaeological Science, vol 41, pp. 322-332., [Online] DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2013.08.010
  • Britton, K. & Mueldner, G. (2013). 'Stable isotope evidence of salt-marsh economies in Bronze Age Severn Estuary'. in M Bell (ed.), The Bronze Age in the Severn Estuary. Council for British Archaeology, York, pp. 263-273.
  • Britton, KH., Mueldner, G. & Bell, M. (2008). 'Stable isotope evidence for salt-marsh grazing in the Bronze Age Severn Estuary, UK: implications for palaeodietary analysis at coastal sites'. Journal of Archaeological Science, vol 35, no. 8, pp. 2111-2118., [Online]DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2008.01.012