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Exploring Diet and Society in Medieval Spain: New Approaches Using Stable Isotope Analysis

MUNDEE, MICHELLE,MARIE (2010) Exploring Diet and Society in Medieval Spain: New Approaches Using Stable Isotope Analysis. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The multi-faith society of medieval Iberia, where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed under changing religious political rule, provides a novel setting for the study of diet. This thesis employs carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analysis to explore variability in diet and resource exploitation between faiths, localities and through time under Muslim and later Christian rule and places the isotopic data in the context of other historical and archaeological evidence.

Isotope analysis was performed on bone collagen from 126 animals and 210 humans representing Muslims and Christians, sampled from sites in Jaca, Zaragoza, Albarracín, Valencia, Gandía and Benipeixcar (c.11th -16th centuries AD) that follow a geographical transect from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean coast, through Aragón and Valencia.

Results indicate humans from all locations consumed a diet based on terrestrial plant and animal protein, with a possible input of aquatic resources at Zaragoza, Valencia and Gandía. There were no consistent differences in diet between faiths, however differences were present between contemporaneous populations of Muslims and Christians in Benipeixcar and Gandía and successive populations of Muslims and Christians in Valencia. A north-south, inland-coastal trend was revealed in the exploitation of C4 plants (millet, sorghum, possibly sugarcane for cattle fodder) which made a significant contribution to the diets of some animals and humans, particularly in the south. Social status and the rural/urban nature of settlements influenced the extent of this exploitation. Dietary diversity was observed in Valencia, particularly in the Islamic period and the presence of immigrants among the populations of this city and Jaca is hypothesised. Sex-based differences in diet were present at some, but not all sites. Variable isotope ratios for animals at almost all sites demonstrates the variety of animal husbandry practices and ecological niches that were exploited during the medieval period in Spain.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:diet, medieval, Spain, stable isotope, carbon, nitrogen, bone, collagen,
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Oct 2010 09:37

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