Object of the Week: Iron Age cattle molars from farmland in ancient Scotland

| 11 February 2016

Object of the Week: Archaeologists have been looking at tooth eruption and wear on cattle teeth from Iron Age and Viking Scotland. This week we bring you a couple of molars

A photo of an iron age cattle tooth from The Archaeology Institute University of the Highlands and Islands
© UHI
These Iron Age calf teeth from Orkney are two of the remains taken from 12 Mine Howe cattle – who grazed during the mid-Iron Age – and nine Earl’s Bu animals, of the Viking to late Norse period. They are being used by zooarchaeologists to find out more about ancient farming techniques in the region.

The sampling marks, used to carry out isotopic analysis at the Stable Light Isotope Facility at the University of Bradford, are visible on the molar enamel.

A photo of an iron age cattle tooth from The Archaeology Institute University of the Highlands and Islands
The teeth under inspection© UHI
Experts from The Archaeology Institute University of the Highlands and Islands examined first, second and third molars from the animals, as well as 29 mandibles from sheep of different ages spread across the two sites.

They found that herding systems in north Orkney indicate manorial estates and a central management system for farming before the 12th century. But one of the key conclusions was that these artefacts have a great deal to tell historians in any future research.


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