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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Professor Janet Montgomery

Towers, J., Montgomery, J., Evans, J., Jay, M. & Pearson, M.P. (2010). An investigation of the origins of cattle and aurochs deposited in the Early Bronze Age barrows at Gayhurst and Irthlingborough. Journal Of Archaeological Science 37(3): 508-515.

Author(s) from Durham


The Early Bronze Age round barrows at Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire and Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire contained remarkably large quantities of cattle (Bos taurus) remains. At Irthlingborough, at least 185 skulls with smaller numbers of mandibles, shoulder blades and pelves were found together with a small number of skeletal elements from aurochs (Bos primigenius). In contrast, the remains from Gayhurst are dominated by the limb bones from more than 300 animals. This study employed strontium isotope ratio analysis of cattle tooth enamel from 15 cattle and one aurochs to investigate the diversity of the animals' origins at both sites and provide insights into Early Bronze Age funerary practices. Although strontium results show that most of the cattle and the aurochs included in this study were consistent with local origins, one animal from each barrow was born remotely, most likely in western Britain. In addition, a second Gayhurst animal was consistent with origins in a region of chalk rather than the local Jurassic sediments.