Stable isotopic insights into crop cultivation, animal husbandry, and land use at the Linearbandkeramik site of Vráble-Veľké Lehemby (Slovakia)

Rosalind E. Gillis, Rebekka Eckelmann, Dragana Filipović, Nils Müller-Scheeßel, Ivan Cheben, Martin Furholt, Cheryl A. Makarewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The plant and animal components of Linearbandkeramik (LBK) subsistence systems were remarkably uniform with cattle, emmer and einkorn wheat providing the primary source of sustenance for Europe’s earliest agricultural communities. This apparent homogeneity in plant and animal use has been implicitly understood to indicate corresponding similarity in the types of husbandry practices employed by LBK farmers across the entire distribution of the LBK culture. Here, we examine the results from the stable (δ13C/δ15N) isotope analysis of animal bone and cereal grains from the site of Vráble-Veľké Lehemby (Slovakia), providing new information about Linearbandkeramik farming practices in the western Carpathians. Moderately high carbon isotope values from animal bone collagen show that all livestock were pastured in open areas with no evidence of forest pasturing, previously associated with LBK settlements in north-western Europe. High δ15N values measured from domesticated cereal grains suggest manuring took place at the site, while 15N enrichment in bone collagen suggest livestock fed on agricultural by-products and possibly grains. An integrated plant-animal management system was in use at Vráble where livestock grazed on cultivation plots post-harvest. Use of such strategy would have helped fatten animals before the lean winter months while simultaneously fertilising agricultural plots with manure. This study contributes to our growing understanding that although the building blocks of LBK subsistence strategies were remarkably similar, diversity in management strategies existed across central and north-western Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Article number256
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Animal husbandry
  • Crop cultivation
  • Land use
  • Linearbandkeramik
  • Slovakia
  • Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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