Riddle of the Red Deer

WORLD

Research shows that red deer were brought to Scottish islands by early explorers, but the question remains: where did the Neolithic colonists come from? (Guardian)

Use today’s MapMaker Interactive map to better understand these maritime migrations across the North Sea.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, including today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

Oh, deer! Where did your ancestors come from? Photograph by Sylvia Duckworth, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-2.0

Oh, deer! Where did your ancestors come from?
Photograph by Sylvia Duckworth, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-2.0

Discussion Ideas

 

  • How do scientists know Hebridean deer didn’t just swim (or get accidentally swept) to the shores of the islands?
    • Deer can swim, but they can’t swim that well. “The Scottish islands are separated from the mainland by deep waters, at distances beyond any deer’s swimming capability.”

 

 

Click through today’s MapMaker Interactive map to find the islands of the Outer Hebrides and the Orkneys, and where scientists sampled ancient evidence of red deer.

Click through today’s MapMaker Interactive map to find the islands of the Outer Hebrides and the Orkneys, and where scientists sampled ancient evidence of red deer.

  • Why might scientists have thought the red deer found on the Outer Hebrides or Orkneys may have brought from Scotland, Ireland, or Scandinavia? Take a look at today’s MapMaker Interactive for some help.
    • They’re relatively close by.
      • The Outer Hebrides and the Orkneys are a part of Scotland. Many people assumed deer from the Outer Hebrides were the same genetic stock as those from the Inner Hebrides, islands closer to Scotland’s west coast, or mainland Scotland itself. Here’s a Scottish deer.
      • Ireland, the second-largest of the British Isles, is just south of the Outer Hebrides. Here’s an Irish deer.
      • Norway is just across the North Sea from the Orkneys. Here are some Norwegian deer.

 

Scientists compared ancient red deer samples from Ireland, the Outer Hebrides, Orkney, the Inner Hebrides/mainland Scotland and Norway.  Map by David W. G. Stanton, Jacqueline A. Mulville, Michael W. Bruford, “Colonization of the Scottish islands via long-distance Neolithic transport of red deer (Cervus elaphus),”  Proc. R. Soc. B 2016 283 20160095; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0095. Published 6 April 2016

Scientists compared ancient red deer samples from Ireland, the Outer Hebrides, Orkney, the Inner Hebrides/mainland Scotland and Norway.
Map by David W. G. Stanton, Jacqueline A. Mulville, Michael W. Bruford, “Colonization of the Scottish islands via long-distance Neolithic transport of red deer (Cervus elaphus),” Proc. R. Soc. B 2016 283 20160095; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0095. Published 6 April 2016. CC-BY-4.0

  • How do we know red deer from the Outer Hebrides and Orkneys did not come from these nearby sites? Take a look at the map above, or today’s MapMaker Interactive map for some help. (Hint: Look at the information in the markers.)
    • DNA.
      • First, scientists took samples from red deer bones unearthed from insular (island) and mainland archaeological sites that represent the spatial and chronological distribution of red deer over the last 7,500 years. They took samples from the Outer Hebrides, Orkneys, Inner Hebrides, mainland Scotland, Ireland, and Norway.
      • Then, they determined the haplotypes of these DNA samples, marked as HAxxx on our map markers. (A haplotype is a group of genes within an organism that was inherited together from a single parent.)

 

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Guardian: Riddle of the red deer: Orkney deer arrived by Neolithic ship, study reveals

Nat Geo: Where did the red deer of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides and Orkneys come from? map

(extra credit!) Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Colonization of the Scottish islands via long-distance Neolithic transport of red deer (Cervus elaphus)

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