Re: British Vegetarianism is 8,000 years old?

Rick Toomey (
10 Oct 1995 11:18:13 GMT (Stewart Mac Intyre) writes:

>I came across this over the weekend. It posses some interesting
>questions to archaeology and anthropology. I would be interested to
>hear other people views on the finds and deductions! Has any other
>sites been found in the UK or World Wide of similar age and social
>British Vegetarianism is 8,000 years old?
>'Archaeologists on the Hebridean Island of Colonsay have found
>conclusive evidence of what they believe to be the earliest British
>community of vegetarians. In a shallow, circular pit, the
>archaeologists found the remains of thousands of roasted hazelnuts.
>There was a noticeable absence of animal bones or fish remains. The
>pit has been dated to the Mesolithic period, 8,000 years ago. The
>complete lack of animal remains has convinced experts that Colonsay
>vegetarians lived exclusively on the foods they gleaned from local
>'The Scale of the activity, unparalleled elsewhere in Scotland,
>suggests the possibility that Colonsay contained a community of
>enforced vegetarians,' reported the Council for British Archaeology.
>... The Vegetarian; Autumn 1995 ...

My first question about the interpretation would be:

Is the lack of bone in the site a result of prehistoric human
behavior or is it a result of taphonomic processes?

Bone frequently does not preserve well/at all in open-air
sites. Is there any reason to assume that bone would
preserve well in this particularly case?

On the other side, there are many sites that do not have
plant remains but do have bone. Are these evidence of
cultures that do not use plant products? They certainly
have not been interpreted as such.

Another important question is about the nature of the site.
Is the site some sort of "special use" site that does not
represent the general lifestyle of the people. Or, is the
site a seasonal occupation that doesn't represent the
diet of the full year?

I certainly would not say that an 8000 year old vegetarian
culture is not possible, I would just like to see a more
complete analysis of the site, before accepting the quoted

Rick Toomey
Illinois State Museum