Big fish and great auks: Exploitation of birds and fish on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, during the Romano-British period
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Journal: Environmental Archaeology
The paper considers the assemblage of bird and fish bones from a Romano-British settlement on the Isle of Portland, on the southern coast of England. Compared with contemporary sites, the assemblage includes an unusually large number of fish bones from a wide range of marine species, including large cod, other Gadidae, several species of seabream, scad and bass. The bird assemblage includes bones of a butchered great auk. This provides the first evidence that this extinct species was nesting off the shores of central southern England and being exploited for food in this period. Other seabirds identified included razorbill, great northern diver and gannet. The species represented are discussed in relation to other Romano-British sites, particularly the Roman town of Dorchester, situated 15 km away. Many of the species have been discovered on only a few contemporary sites and the presence of the seabream in particular indicates that seawater temperatures may have been warmer than until very recently. Possible cultural changes in diet and food procurement in the Roman period are also considered. © Association for Environmental Archaeology 2012.