Archaeological bird remains from Norway as a means to identify long-term patterns in a Northern European avifauna
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Birds are currently facing a biodiversity crisis. Seabirds, birds in agricultural landscapes, and montane birds are particularly vulnerable to extinction. Whilst their modern distributions are well studied, how past events and processes have shaped modern avian distributions in Norway and Scandinavia remains mostly unknown. Past bird populations can help us to better understand how birds react to environmental change. The overall aim of this project is to better understand the faunal histories of birds in Norway during the Holocene (the last ~ 10,000 years). This was achieved through studying bone remains, reconstructing past avian communities, and identifying changes over time. A multi-disciplinary approach has been implemented throughout this project. Zooarchaeological methods form the basis of the research, through the use of comparative morphology, metric and statistical analysis. I have also drawn on palaeoecological techniques and careful consideration of ornithological studies regarding the species found within the archaeological record. The findings of paper I show that despite climatic fluctuations and the rise of urban centres during the Medieval period in Norway, re-examination and compilation of bird bone assemblages found little evidence to suggest that the Medieval bird fauna dif¬fered from the modern one. Interestingly, species that are now ubiquitous in urban areas, such as pigeons, corvids and gulls are mostly absent from Medieval urban centres. The first occurrences of domestic chicken in Norway indicate that they were imported by the Vikings. However, in very small numbers, and it is not until the Medieval period that chickens become more common place (Paper I-II). The reasons for the introduction of non-native species to Norway are varied. This research has found evidence for the use of G. gallus in blood sport (Paper II), the presence of more elaborate chicken types/breeds (Paper II), and the introduction of other exotic species (Paper I). Furthermore, increased use of falconry (Paper I, IV) during the Medieval and Post-Medieval periods show a significant and widespread change in attitude toward bird species. The current biodiversity crisis facing bird species has given rise for the need to better understand past responses to change. This research found that Atlantic Puffin expanded northwards during a period of climatic oscillations in the mid-Holocene (Paper III). Furthermore, I have identified body size changes (Paper I, III-IV) in response to change. These responses can occur over a relatively short time frame. Whereas morphological changes to the skeleton are more of a long-term response, which has so far not been detected in the Holocene avifauna of Norway. But, more robust skeletal elements have been identified (Paper III). This work has not only significantly expanded the knowledge of avifaunal history within Norway, but has also placed Norwegian data into a regional (Scandinavian) and continental (northern European) perspective. In addition, the resulting data presented here highlight new questions and research directions.
Has partsPaper I: Walker SJ., Hufthammer AK., & Meijer HJM. 2019. Birds in Medieval Norway. Open Quaternary 5(5): 1–33. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/1956/21602
Paper II: Walker SJ., & Meijer HJM. 2020. More than food; evidence for different breeds and cockfighting in Gallus gallus bones from Medieval and Post-Medieval Norway. Quaternary International 543: 125–134. The article is available in the thesis file. The article is also available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2020.03.008
Paper III: Walker SJ., & Meijer HJM. 2021. Size variation in mid-Holocene North Atlantic Puffins indicates a dynamic response to climate change. PLOS ONE. 16(2): e0246888. The article is available at: https://hdl.handle.net/11250/2759158
Paper IV: Walker SJ., & Meijer HJM. A long-term study of size variation in Northern Goshawks Accipiter gentilis across Scandinavia, with a focus on Norway. The article is not available in BORA.