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Nature25 September 2003

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Archaeology: Fish off the menu

The carbon isotope content of human bone collagen is a good record of past dietary intake, as proteins from marine and terrestrial sources leave different isotopic signatures. Using this indicator, new light is thrown on an old controversy. Domesticated plants and animals were adopted in Britain during the Neolithic, 5,200–4,500 years ago, and the question is whether this was a rapid event or a gradual process lasting for more than a millennium. The new data point to a sudden shift in diet at the onset of the Neolithic. Sea foods were swiftly abandoned by both inland and coastal dwellers, suggesting that attractions of the new farming lifestyle were sufficient to persuade even the keenest of fishing communities to turn their backs on the sea.

brief communication
Archaeology: Sharp shift in diet at onset of Neolithic
MICHAEL P. RICHARDS, RICK J. SCHULTING & ROBERT E. M. HEDGES
Nature 425, 366 (2003); doi:10.1038/425366a
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