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Ageing Cattle: The Use of Radiographic Examinations on Cattle Metapodials from Eketorp Ringfort on the Island of Öland in Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.
2015 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 10, no 9, e0137109Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper conventional X-ray analysis of cattle metapodials is used to study the age structure of slaughtered cattle at Eketorp ringfort on the island of Öland, Sweden. The X-ray analyses suggest that several animals in both phases were slaughtered aged 4–8 years. More oxen/bulls than cows reached the advanced age of over 8 years, yet in phase III more oxen/bulls seem to have been slaughtered between the ages of 2 and 8 years. These differences may reflect a change in demand for meat related to the character of the site. The results also show a correlation between metapodials with a pathology connected to biomechanical stress and older animals. This suggests that male cattle were used both in meat production and as draught animals. Asymmetry in male metatarsals such as distal broadening of the lateral part of the medial trochlea was visible on the X-ray images. The bone element also indicates a denser outer cortex of the medial diaphysis in comparison to the inner medulla. This could be the result of repetitive mechanical stress. Two metatarsals from cows were documented with distal asymmetry indicating that cows were also used as working animals. Bone elements with changes in the articular surfaces were more common in metapodials from cows with an X-ray age of over 3–4 years. These results highlighted the slaughter age difference between oxen/bulls and cows, enabling a better understanding of animal husbandry and the selection of draught cattle at Eketorp ringfort.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 10, no 9, e0137109
Keyword [en]
X-ray, Ageing, Cattle, Metapodials, Paleopathology, Iron Age, Middle Ages, Eketorp ringfort
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-82604DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0137109ISI: 000360615400041OAI: diva2:570650
Available from: 2012-11-20 Created: 2012-11-20 Last updated: 2015-10-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Working Animals and Skeletal Lesions: Paleopathology of Cattle and Horse in Iron Age and Medieval Öland, Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Working Animals and Skeletal Lesions: Paleopathology of Cattle and Horse in Iron Age and Medieval Öland, Sweden
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Central to this thesis is the relationship between animal husbandry practices and the associated pathological conditions. Since bone elements from the extremities are subjected to abnormal load when animals are put to hard work this research aims to go further and interpret the prevalence of varying lesions and their connection with animal husbandry by using methods such as osteometric analysis, conventional radiograpic and bone mineral study, as well as incorporated molecular analysis.

The results show that approximately 15% of the cattle extremities at Eketorp ringfort had some kind of skeletal lesion. Cattle metatarsals exhibited a higher frequency of lesions than metacarpals. Skeletal lesions connected to draught use were more frequently recorded on bone elements from male than from female cattle. The anterior phalanges 1-2 had a higher occurence of lesions than the posterior elements. In addition, there was a significant correlation between larger sized animals and lesions. Osteological measurements were also investigated using molecular sex identification. Several measurements in both fragmented and complete metapodials proved useful in separating cows from oxen or bulls.

Conventional radiographics were used on cattle metapodials from Eketorp ringfort to investigate the age structure in slaughtered cattle over 3 years of age. In phase III more male cattle were slaughtered before 8 years of age which could reflect the character of the site. The bone density analysis showed that modern cattle metapodials had higher values than the archaeological specimens which made intepretation of post-depositional changes problematic. The molecular analysis did not show any selected breed or specific type of animal. All but two of the Eketorp cattle belonged to haplogroup Y2 which is common in Southern Europe. The Y1 haplogroup (one in phase II and one in phase III) is common in Western and Northern Europe. The results point to that the Ölandic cattle population was homogeneous over time. The results from thirty-four bone elements show that twenty-five bones belonged to animals with red or light coat coloration and nine of uncertain, possibly partly black colour.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm Univeristy, 2012. 69 p.
Theses and papers in osteoarchaeology, ISSN 1652-4098 ; 7
Skeletal lesions, draught use of cattle, sacrificed horses, Iron Age, Middle Ages, Eketorp ringfort, Skedemosse wetland, Öland, sweden
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-82619 (URN)978-91-7447-603-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-12-19, föreläsningssalen, Botaniska institutionen, Lilla Frescativägen 5, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Accepted. Paper 4: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2012-11-27 Created: 2012-11-20 Last updated: 2012-11-22Bibliographically approved

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Telldahl, Ylva
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