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A multi-isotope investigation of diet and subsistence amongst island and mainland populations from early medieval western Britain

Hemer, Katie A.; Lamb, Angela L.; Chenery, Carolyn A.; Evans, Jane A.. 2017 A multi-isotope investigation of diet and subsistence amongst island and mainland populations from early medieval western Britain. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 162 (3). 423-440. 10.1002/ajpa.23127

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Abstract/Summary

Objectives: This is the first investigation of dietary practices amongst multiple early medieval populations (AD 500–1000) from Wales and the Isle of Man using carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur isotope analysis. The analysis will illuminate similarities or differences between the diets and subsistence strategies of populations occupying different geographical regions, specifically those living in marginal coastal regions in comparison to inland populations well-connected to ecclesiastical centres and high-status settlements. Materials and Methods: One hundred and two human skeletons were sampled for carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis, and 69 human skeletons were sampled for sulphur isotope analysis from nine cemetery sites from western Britain (Isle of Man53, southwest Wales54, southeast Wales52). Thirteen faunal skeletons from St Patrick’s Chapel (southwest Wales) were sampled for carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur isotope analysis. Results: Human d13C values range from 219.4& to 221.2& (d13C mean5220.4 60.4&, 1r, n586), and d15N values range from 9.1& to 13.8& (d15Nmean 5 10.860.9&, 1r, n586). d34S values range from 1.2& to 18.4& (d34S mean 5 11.664.5&, 1r, n566). Significant differences were noted between the mean d13C, d15N and d34S values according to geographic region: Isle of Man (d13C5220.7 6 0.4&, d15N511.4 60.6&, n513/86; d34S mean517.1 60.6, n54/66), southwest Wales (d13C5220.5 6 0.4&, d15N511.0 61&, n532/86; d34S516.1 6 2.1, n521/66), and southeast Wales (d13C 5220.3 60.4&, d15N510.4 60.7&, n541/86; d34S5 8.8 63&, n541/66). Faunal d13C values range from 223.1& to 221.2& (d13C mean5 222.1 60.5&, 1r, n513), and d15N values range from 6.3& to 9.8& (d15N mean 5 7.361.1&, 1r, n513). d34S values range from 4.7& to 18.4& (d34S mean5 16.363.6&, 1r, n513). Conclusions: The data reveal a reliance on terrestrial protein, however differences are observed between the resource consumption of populations from southwest Wales and the Isle of Man in comparison to the populations from southeast Wales. Populations from the west coast have a marine sulphur signature that reflects their coastal proximity and may also include a reliance on seaweed as a fertiliser/food source. Populations in the southeast were connected to ecclesiastical centres and high-status settlements and had access to inland-grown produce. The data add support to the suggestion that d34S can be used as a mobility indicator.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1002/ajpa.23127
ISSN: 00029483
Date made live: 02 Dec 2016 11:32 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/515300

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