What Amino Acids in Shells tell us About Bronze Age People

Related Articles

Related Articles

Scientists at the University of York have conducted a study that has unveiled new information on the use of mollusc shells and personal adornments by people in the Bronze Age.

The research team used a variety of techniques to conduct their research. These included: amino acid racemisation analyisis (a technique previously used in the dating of artefacts), light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and Raman Spectroscopy, in order to identify raw materials used to create a complex necklace which was discovered in an Early Bronze Age Burial site in Suffolk. The research has been published in PLOS ONE.

From completing this research the team managed to discover that the craftspeople of the Bronze Age used dog whelk and tusk shells, it is probable that these were sourced locally, to manufacture tiny disc-shaped beads in the necklace.

Included in the group of researchers were archaeologists, mathematicians, chemists and physicists. Dr Sonia O’Connor, of the University of Bradford’s Department of Archaeological Sciences conducted the light and electron microscopy. Dr Alison Sheridon, a prehistoric jewelry specialist from the National Museum Scotland facilitated access to the Great Cornard necklace, which was excavated by Suffolk Archaeology.

On discovery that the tiny white beads were created from shell, the source of these shells was then considered. It was questioned if the shells were sourced locally or if they originated from somewhere further afield. The Mediterranean thorny oyster (Spondylus) is know for its symbolic cultural significance in the Bronze Age, along with this it is known that it was used on the Continent at the time the necklace would have been made.

Therefore it was proposed that this Mediterranean thorny oyster was the shell used for the creation of the necklace.However, collaborative research led by Dr Beatrice Demarchi, from York’s department of archaeology, and Dr Julie Wilson, from the departments of Chemistry and Mathematics and YCCSA, managed to conclude that this in fact was not the case. They have suggested an alternative possibility.

Subscribe to more articles like this by following our Google Discovery feed - Click the follow button on your desktop or the star button on mobile. Subscribe

Dr Demarchi said: “Dog whelks and tusk shells were likely to be available locally so these people did not have to travel far to get hold of the raw materials for their beads. There is evidence, from elsewhere in Britain and further afield, for the use of tusk shells at various times in the past. This may well be because they are relatively easy to work and their hollow shape is very distinctive.”

Dr Wilson added: “The statistical analysis used pattern recognition algorithms for taxonomic identification, comparing the composition of the beads with a large database of shell amino acid compositions. Although we cannot know the origin of the beads for certain, our multidisciplinary approach provides additional evidence for the identifications.”

University of York   Header Image: WikiPedia

- Advertisement -

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Study Suggests the Mystery of The Lost Colony of Roanoke Solved

The Roanoke Colony refers to two colonisation attempts by Sir Walter Raleigh to establish a permanent English settlement in North America.

Drones Map High Plateaus Basin in Moroccan Atlas to Understand Human Evolution

Researchers from the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) have been using drones to create high-resolution aerial images and topographies to compile maps of the High Plateaus Basin in Moroccan Atlas.

The Kerguelen Oceanic Plateau Sheds Light on the Formation of Continents

How did the continents form? Although to a certain extent this remains an open question, the oceanic plateau of the Kerguelen Islands may well provide part of the answer, according to a French-Australian team led by the Géosciences Environnement Toulouse laboratory.

Ancient Societies Hold Lessons for Modern Cities

Today's modern cities, from Denver to Dubai, could learn a thing or two from the ancient Pueblo communities that once stretched across the southwestern United States. For starters, the more people live together, the better the living standards.

Volubilis – The Ancient Berber City

Volubilis is an archaeological site and ancient Berber city that many archaeologists believe was the capital of the Kingdom of Mauretania.

Pella – Birthplace of Alexander The Great

Pella is an archaeological site and the historical capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedon.

New Argentine fossils uncover history of celebrated conifer group

Newly unearthed, surprisingly well-preserved conifer fossils from Patagonia, Argentina, show that an endangered and celebrated group of tropical West Pacific trees has roots in the ancient supercontinent that once comprised Australia, Antarctica and South America, according to an international team of researchers.

High-tech CT reveals ancient evolutionary adaptation of extinct crocodylomorphs

The tree of life is rich in examples of species that changed from living in water to a land-based existence.

Fish fossils become buried treasure

Rare metals crucial to green industries turn out to have a surprising origin. Ancient global climate change and certain kinds of undersea geology drove fish populations to specific locations.

Archaeologists Discover Viking Toilet in Denmark

Archaeologists excavating a settlement on the Stevns Peninsula in Denmark suggests they have discovered a toilet from the Viking Age.

Popular stories