The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Dietary patterns in Medieval northern Spain


1Department of Anthropology, California State University, Chico, 2Central Identification Laboratory, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command

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Stable isotope analysis of human bone may reveal differential access to dietary resources due to a variety of cultural and environmental factors. The goal of this study is to reconstruct the diets of individuals living in predominantly rural communities of Medieval Asturias, Spain (10–19th centuries). Although the history of high status individuals is documented in written records, little has been recorded on the daily lives of the peasant classes that made up the majority of the population. Dietary inequality is explored through evaluation of dietary differences between the sexes and between different socioeconomic groups.

Human burials (n=45) and faunal remains (n=12) excavated from eight archaeological sites comprise the dataset for this study. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of bone collagen and stable carbon isotopes of bone apatite were analyzed to explore dietary variation. Historic records suggest that the human diet consisted of C3 plants, animal domesticates, wild herbivores, and marine resources for coastal groups. δ13C values vary from -20.2 to -12.4 ‰, whereas δ15N values vary from 8.4 to 13‰. Although much of this variation can be attributed to geographic location, there is also significant intra-site variation. We explore these patterns with regard to sex differences in diet, dietary inequality, and migration history. This project will be among the first isotopic study undertaken in this region, and will shed new light on the dietary patterns of rural Medieval Spanish populations.

This research was funded by a grant from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico.

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