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The use of vertebral measurements for body length and weight reconstruction of pike (Esox lucius) from archaeological sites


Pike (Esox lucius) is a large freshwater species with a wide distribution in Eurasia and North America that has been exploited since prehistoric times as is shown by the skeletal remains found on numerous archaeological sites. The role the species played in the subsistence of inland human settlements can be documented by its proportion within the spectrum of exploited fish and by reconstructing the body lengths of the pike and the amount of meat they represent. Osteometrical data in the literature allow size and, sometimes, meat weight reconstructions on the basis of the measurements of isolated cranial bones, but little attention has been paid thus far to the use of vertebrae for such reconstructions. Using a series of 27 dry skeletons of modern pike, here, we provide regression equations that allow an accurate estimation of the body length and weight of the fish on the basis of each of the first five vertebrae. Analysis of the size variation of the height, width and length of all the vertebral centra along the vertebral column, through the construction of the so-called Global Rachidian Profile, showed that only the length measurements can be of potential use for a rather crude estimation of body length. Finally, a case study is provided, using a large assemblage of Early Neolithic pike vertebrae, to show the potential of the new osteometrical data.

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Correspondence to Wim Van Neer.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Fishing over the millennia.

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Jelu, I., Wouters, W. & Van Neer, W. The use of vertebral measurements for body length and weight reconstruction of pike (Esox lucius) from archaeological sites. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 72 (2021).

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  • Esox lucius
  • Vertebrae
  • Size reconstruction
  • Regression
  • Archaeozoology