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High status diet and health in Medieval Lisbon: a combined isotopic and osteological analysis of the Islamic population from São Jorge Castle, Portugal

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JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
DateAccepted/In press - 11 Mar 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 2 Apr 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Aug 2019
Issue number8
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)3699-3716
Early online date2/04/19
Original languageEnglish


This paper presents the first bioarchaeological study of Islamic diet and lifeways in medieval Portugal. Stable isotopes of δ13C and δ15N and osteological and paleopathological analyses are combined to explore the diet and health status of 27 humans buried within São Jorge Castle, Lisbon (eleventh to twelfth century), interpreted as a high status population. Human isotopic data are considered alongside an animal baseline comprised of 30 specimens sampled from nearby Praça da Figueira, including the main domesticates and fish. Isotopic data indicate an age- and sex-related difference in diet among the population, suggesting a difference in food access between females and children compared to males. Palaeopathological analysis indicates a low prevalence of non-specific stress indicators such as Harris lines (HL), linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) and cribra orbitalia (CO) in this population in comparison to other medieval populations. LEH is only present in adults. These results suggest the presence of socio-cultural patterning relating to the organisation of the Islamic family, where women and men occupied different places in the household and society. This paper demonstrates the utility of a combined osteological and isotopic approach to understand the lifeways of Islamic populations in Medieval Iberia, as well as illuminates the lifeways of understudied segments of the population.

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© The Author(s) 2019

    Research areas

  • Medieval, Portugal, Muslim, diet, Paleopathology, Stable isotopes

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