Multi-isotope analysis of the population of the lost medieval village of Auldhame, East Lothian, Scotland

Lamb, Angela L.; Melikian, Melissa; Ives, Rachel; Evans, Jane. 2012 Multi-isotope analysis of the population of the lost medieval village of Auldhame, East Lothian, Scotland. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 27 (5). 765-777.

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This study is one of only a handful to combine strontium, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotope data for medieval human remains, in this case from individuals buried in a cemetery in the remote Scottish coastal village of Auldhame, which was abandoned in the 17th century AD. The strontium and oxygen isotope analysis of tooth enamel suggests that the group predominantly comprised a local, static population and thus this allows the examination of the dietary habits of a remote coastal community. The combination of relatively high nitrogen isotope values with relatively low carbon isotope values within bone collagen suggests little marine protein in the diet, which is unusual given the coastal location. The community may have been consuming some freshwater fish or omnivores (pigs fed on animal diets), but also we suggest that the combination of isotope values could be explained by soil improvement methods. Some evidence for soil deepening at the site, and by association manuring, suggests that the consumption of cereals was important to the diet, and may explain the high nitrogen values found in combination with terrestrial carbon isotope values. This combination of dietary isotopes has previously been suggested to be unusual for the medieval period, but we propose it is perhaps more common than originally conceived. As there are few previous multi-isotope studies from Scottish medieval assemblages on this scale, the study provides an opportunity to construct a picture of medieval and early post-medieval life in rural Scotland.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory
Date made live: 08 May 2012 12:05 +0 (UTC)

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