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

From valley to coast: an isotopic study of Albanian diet across three millennia


1Department of Anthropology, California State University, Chico, 2Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University

Saturday 9:45-10:00, Ballroom B Add to calendar

Isotopic data are presented for 65 burials from four sites in Albania dating from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Medieval period to explore variation in human diets. Ecological and cultural diversity place these coastal and inland Albanian settlements within a complex social context and history replete with periods characterized by colonization, migration, and urban development and decline punctuated by repeated invasions.

Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of human bone collagen, which track dietary protein sources, and stable carbon isotope ratios of bone apatite, which record macronutrient contributions from the whole diet, reflect different patterns of dietary variation at each site. In tracing the sources of dietary protein, the mean collagen δ13C value is more enriched at the Kamenica Tumulus in the Korçë Plain compared to the three sites on the southern Albanian coast (Butrint, Diaporit, and Vrina Plain). However, for δ15N, this pattern is reversed with higher values for the coastal sites. Surprisingly, the results for the coastal settlements revealed that the majority of individuals consumed a diet primarily of terrestrial and freshwater resources, despite the proximity to the Ionian and Adriatic Sea.

This presentation explores dietary variation between coastal and inland environments and between males and females. Human dietary patterns are also evaluated in relation to physical characteristics of the graves, with previous research suggesting a connection between burial form and social status. Further, we address the influence of proximity to land or sea trade routes, as well as possible religious dietary restrictions.

This study was funded by a CSU-Chico BSS Strategic Performance Grant.

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