Before Farming

Stone Age hunter–fisher–gatherers at Zvejnieki, northern Latvia

radiocarbon, stable isotope and archaeozoology data

Before Farming (2003), 2003, (1), 1–25.

Abstract

The Zvejnieki Stone Age1 complex in northern Latvia includes one of the most significant hunter–fisher–gatherer cemeteries in northern Europe in terms of both the exceptional number of individuals buried there and the extremely long period of use: more than 300 individuals interred over a period of at least four millennia. New results of archaeozoological studies and palaeodiet investigations performed on the Zvejnieki human remains are presented here, together with 18 new radiocarbon dates. It is clear from the stable isotope analyses that the Zvejnieki people were heavily reliant on freshwater fish until the end of the Early Neolithic, when the consumption of fish declined somewhat, although it still made an important contribution to the diet. The Late Neolithic individuals in Corded Ware flexed burials at Zvejnieki and elsewhere in Latvia show a distinct dietary pattern, pointing towards animal husbandry. The faunal remains found in settlement layers confirm the trends revealed by bone chemistry, whereas the archaeozoological analyses of faunal remains in graves, mostly in the form of tooth pendants, show a different picture, emphasising the importance of big game hunting. This illustrates the discrepancy between the symbolic world, as expressed by burial customs, and everyday life, as revealed by stable isotope data and refuse layers.

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Author details

Eriksson, Gunilla

Lõugas, Lembi

Zagorska, Ilga

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