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

Human dietary reconstruction from stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis in Anglo-Saxon England


School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Canterbury. UK.

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This study reconstructed ancient human diet from stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analyses of bone collagen recovered from Anglo-Saxon Rookery Hill (n=20) in Sussex, England. Following this, Rookery Hill was compared to previously reported values from other Anglo-Saxon sites around England, to search for regional variation, and dietary differences between coastal and inland sites.

Mean isotope values from Rookery Hill were lower compared to all other Anglo-Saxon sites in England, which suggested a dietary focus towards terrestrial plant foods and herbivore animal proteins. Even though archaeological evidence recovered from Rookery Hill included fish and other marine resources, isotope values indicate this was not an important dietary component.

When Anglo Saxon sites in England were grouped by region, mean δ15N values were relatively high in York and low in Kent. Mean δ13C values were also more positive in Kent, and the least positive in Suffolk. There were some differences in isotopic values between coastal and inland sites, however these were not consistent. No significant variation occurred when the δ13C and δ15N values were compared between the sexes, the age at death groups, or against the presence of grave goods.

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