The University of Arizona

Potential Freshwater Reservoir Effects in a Neolithic Shell Midden at Riņņukalns, Latvia

John Meadows, Harald Lübke, Ilga Zagorska, Valdis Bērziņš, Aija Ceriņa, Ilze Ozola


Riņņukalns is the only known prehistoric shell midden in the eastern Baltic, and is one of the few middens in northern Europe consisting mainly of freshwater mussel shells. Situated on the Salaca River at the outlet of Lake Burtnieks, in northeastern Latvia, the site was originally excavated in the 1870s, and reinvestigated several times over the following decades. A new excavation in 2011 showed that part of the midden remained intact. The new exposure, dated to the later 4th millennium cal BC, yielded rich fishbone and mollusk shell assemblages, herbivore, human and bird bones, and a wide range of artifacts typical of a subsistence economy based on fishing, hunting, and gathering. Human remains from burials excavated in the 1870s were also located in archives. The co-occurrence at Riņņukalns of human remains with a broad range of terrestrial and aquatic food remains provides an ideal setting to study freshwater reservoir effects and other isotopic signals of diet and mobility. The extent of 14C depletion in local freshwater resources is an essential parameter for such studies; on the basis of 14C ages of modern and paleoenvironmental samples, we estimate that the applicable reservoir age in Lake Burtnieks is in the order of 800–900 14C yr.

DOI: 10.2458/56.16950


freshwater reservoir effect; shell midden; Latvia; Neolithic

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