UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tracing colonial animal trade and husbandry using stable isotope analyses Guiry, Eric


Domestic animals, particularly cattle and pigs, were a cornerstone of European colonial projects around the globe (ca. 1500-1900 AD). Livestock husbandry and trade provided not only a source of food, labour, and raw materials for daily life, but also held symbolic significance as a factor in establishing colonial group identity. This dissertation uses stable isotope analyses to reconstruct domestic animal trade and husbandry practices associated with the global expansion of European colonial activities into the New World between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Research has been divided into three standalone projects, each designed to make a significant contribution to the current literature in the field of isotopic-zooarchaeological analyses. These projects are unified through a common theme of exploring the social roles of animal husbandry and trade and, together, provide a cohesive demonstration of how historical and isotopic faunal records can be integrated to advance archaeological interpretations of human-animal interactions. Paper 1 presents the first stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotope study of faunal remains from the unique archaeological context of a shipwreck (the William Salthouse, sunk in 1841), which provides an outstanding opportunity to assess how faunal isotopic patterns at archaeological consumption sites would be influenced by inclusion of animal products acquired through long-distance transportation. Paper 2 presents a stable carbon and nitrogen isotope study of domestic livestock and meat trade in nineteenth-century Upper Canada (now Ontario). This is the first large-scale isotopic analysis of historical faunal remains in North America and shows how consumption of foreign and local animal products can be linked with different groups of people to reveal social dimensions of meat trade in urban settings. Paper 3 presents stable carbon and nitrogen analyses of faunal remains for the seventeenth-century shipwreck La Belle, associated with La Salle’s famous attempt to colonize the mouth of the Mississippi River. This study reconstructs pig husbandry practices in the context of detailed firsthand historical accounts to show that for La Salle’s colonists, domestic animal husbandry likely reflected significant cultural importance, rather than economic and subsistence factors.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International