Pests or prey? Micromammal species within an ancient anthropic environment at the Norse settlement site of Tuquoy (Westray, Orkney)

Andrzej A. Romaniuk*, Lore Troalen, Robin Bendrey, Jeremy S Herman, Olwyn Owen, Catherine Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Micromammals, like rodents and shrews, adapt rapidly to take advantage of new food sources, habitats and ecological niches, frequently thriving in anthropogenic environments. Their remains, often retrieved during archaeological investigations, can be a valuable source of information about the past environmental conditions as well as interspecies interactions and human activity. However, the research on such finds rarely covers multiple approaches, often relying on single species or data type (e.g. identification/information for proxy studies). Here we investigate micromammal remains from the Norse and medieval (AD tenth–fourteenth centuries) archaeological site at Tuquoy, Orkney, to elucidate the relationships between micromammals, humans and other species present using a variety of data. Four micromammal species were identified, and their species dynamics as well as relationships with humans could be inferred by tracking changes in spatial and temporal location of remains, from their taphonomic history and by age estimation for individual animals. A larger, predatory assemblage was also identified, with species composition differing from that in the rest of the archaeological assemblage, and possibly therefore representing small mammal species composition in the wild. The assemblage was probably deposited by a diurnal raptor, though identification to species is not certain due to post-depositional processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Orkney
  • micromammal
  • archaeology
  • introductions
  • predation
  • commensalism


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