Mobility and migration are of fundamental importance in human prehistory and have, as such, been debated ever since archaeology became an academic discipline. The discussion has focused mainly on the power of migration to explain cultural evolution and social development, and on the implications of mobility and sedentism. Clearly, there have been periods during prehistory when migration and changes in mobility patterns were more intense than during other periods, often in connection with the introduction of new crops, creatures or crafts. Scandinavia during the Neolithic and Bronze Age is one such instance, and the focus of the present article.
Mobility has previously been studied using carbon and nitrogen isotopes (e.g. Hakenbeck et al. 2010; Sealy 2006), strontium (e.g. Price et al. 2001; Knudson and Buikstra 2007; Nehlich et al. 2009), or sulphur (e.g. Linderholm et al. 2008; Vika 2009; Oelze et al. 2012; Nehlich et al. 2012; Jay et al. 2013). However, the intricate issue of separating mobility from dietary changes has rarely been addressed (although see e.g. Knudson et al. 2010). In this article, we therefore set out to do this, studying Neolithic and Bronze Age people on the island of Öland in the Baltic Sea. In order to study individual mobility, we have focused on establishing intra-individual δ34S variation by analysing, where possible, both tooth and bone elements from each individual, enabling the detection of residential changes during a lifetime. This is particularly challenging in aquatic environments, with individuals consuming various mixtures of terrestrial and marine foods, because the terrestrial δ34S signal is masked by marine δ34S influence. Here, we suggest that by modelling the δ34S of the terrestrial component of human diet, it is possible to identify non-local origin and residential mobility for individuals consuming various mixtures of terrestrial/marine protein. In this study we accordingly make use of intra-individual data to distinguish between mobility and dietary change, by combining carbon, nitrogen and sulphur stable isotope data.
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