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The First Appearance of Cattle in Denmark Occurred 6000 Years Ago: An Effect of Cultural or Climate and Environmental Changes

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Abstract

Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios from bones of contemporaneous Late Atlantic aurochs and early cattle in eastern Denmark are significantly different and provide information on the origin and feeding strategies of the earliest domestic cattle. The data show that the early cattle were feeding on grass right from the beginning 4000 cal. yr BC. In contrast, the youngest aurochs population primarily browsed and grazed from the dense forest floor resulting in rather negative 13C values measured on bone collagen. The oldest aurochs have similar isotope values to the earlier cattle, whereas the youngest aurochs have similar values to Late Atlantic red deer from the same locality. As eastern Denmark was largely covered by forest, speculations on the origin of the grazing areas are many. The grass may have grown in openings in the forest, at the forest fringe, or more likely on the newly reclaimed coastal land areas exposed by the decreasing rate of eustatic sea-level rise contemporaneously with isostatic uplift, during the Littorina transgressions. The stable isotope values do not indicate that leaf foddering of the early cattle was of importance.
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Keywords: Bos primigenius; Bos tavrus; Denmark; Mesolithic-Neolithic transition; aurochs; climate and sea-level changes; diets; domestic cattle; radiocarbon dates; stable C and N isotopes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Geological Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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