Food and Behaviour Research

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Fish and resilience among Early Holocene foragers of southern Scandinavia: A fusion of stable isotopes and zooarchaeology through Bayesian mixing modelling

Boethius A, Ahlström T (2018) Journal of Archaeological Science 2018 March 

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  • Mesolithic forager subsistence in Scandinavia studied with stable isotopes.
  • δ15C and δ15N from 82 individuals are related to baselines from 323 dietary sources.
  • Proportional estimates of protein dietary sources modelled using Bayesian analysis.
  • Zooarchaeological data incorporated as priors for site-specific modelling.
  • Evidence of aquatically based diets and temporally diminishing isotopic niche width.

This study highlights the importance of different protein sources in the diet of Early and Middle Mesolithic humans in southern Scandinavia, and illustrates variation and change in protein consumption patterns during the Early Holocene.

By combining previously published stable isotope data with new analyses of human and animal bone remains, a Bayesian mixing model was used to reveal that fishing was more important than previously anticipated in the foraging economy. Incorporating the zooarchaeological record as a prior to guide the Bayesian model enabled further study of Early Holocene foraging in the region.

Although primarily a study of human diet, because the results indicate that aquatic systems were more important than previously acknowledged, it is possible to discuss the implications for understanding Early Holocene subsistence strategies and mobility. Furthermore, by incorporating both zooarchaeological data and human stable isotope analysis, the methodology can advance palaeodietary studies, by generating dietary protein estimations that can be used to investigate subsistence strategies across a diverse set of human societies.


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