The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Medieval Polish diet in a world of flux

LAURIE J. REITSEMA1, TOMASZ KOZŁOWSKI2 and DANIEL MAKOWIECKI3.

1Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, 2Institute of Anthropology, Nicolaus Copernicus University, 3Institute of Archaeology, Nicolaus Copernicus University

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Poland’s medieval period was a time of dramatic socioeconomic, political and religious changes having major impacts on human diet and health. We report results of a large-scale stable isotope analysis of skeletons from Poland’s Pomeranian region in the Vistula River Valley, focusing on rate of diet change and sex- and status-based diet differences.

Two mortuary samples are from Kałdus, an economic center of the early Piast dynasty located on major trade routes, dating to the 10th-11th and 12th-13th c. Two are from Gruczno, an early medieval settlement complex and later agricultural village on the opposite bank of the Vistula River, dating to the 12th-13th and 13th-14th c. With this sample, diet change could be monitored in ~150 year increments. Bone collagen and carbonate of 65 females, 68 males and numerous animals were assayed. Diagenesis was assessed with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy.

Diets at Kałdus and Gruczno differed markedly in spite of similar time periods and shared geographic region. Diet at Kałdus was isotopically varied and included more fish and the C4 plant millet. Diet at Gruczno was more restricted to C3 terrestrial resources. Diet change through time included a reduction in fish and millet. Isotope ratios of men and women did not differ except during the latest time period, and burial style (e.g.: Christian vs. “pagan”/“antivampire”) did not predict isotope signatures. Although some changes in diet concomitant with religious and political upheavals were detected, the most significant influence on diet appears to have been a site’s economic function.

This research was funded by the Larsen Research and Travel Award, an Alumni Grant for Graduate Research and Scholarship, an International Affairs Graduate Research Grant, and a Critical Difference for Women Grant for Research on Women, Gender and Gender Equity from The Ohio State University.

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