Multidisciplinary investigations of the diets of two post-medieval populations from London using stable isotopes and microdebris analysis

Madeleine Bleasdale*, Paola Ponce, Anita Radini, Andrew S. Wilson, Sean Doherty, Patrick Daley, Chloe Brown, Luke Spindler, Lucy Sibun, Camilla Speller, Michelle M. Alexander

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper presents the first multi-tissue study of diet in post-medieval London using both the stable light isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen and analysis of microdebris in dental calculus. Dietary intake was explored over short and long timescales. Bulk bone collagen was analysed from humans from the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy (QCS) (n = 66) and the St Barnabas/St Mary Abbots (SB) (n = 25). Incremental dentine analysis was performed on the second molar of individual QCS1123 to explore childhood dietary intake. Bulk hair samples (n = 4) were sampled from adults from QCS, and dental calculus was analysed from four other individuals using microscopy. In addition, bone collagen from a total of 46 animals from QCS (n = 11) and the additional site of Prescot Street (n = 35) was analysed, providing the first animal dietary baseline for post-medieval London. Overall, isotopic results suggest a largely C3-based terrestrial diet for both populations, with the exception of QCS1123 who exhibited values consistent with the consumption of C4 food sources throughout childhood and adulthood. The differences exhibited in δ15Ncoll across both populations likely reflect variations in diet due to social class and occupation, with individuals from SB likely representing wealthier individuals consuming larger quantities of animal and marine fish protein. Microdebris analysis results were limited but indicate the consumption of domestic cereals. This paper demonstrates the utility of a multidisciplinary approach to investigate diet across long and short timescales to further our understanding of variations in social status and mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6161-6181
Number of pages21
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number11
Early online date16 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 The Author(s)


  • Calculus
  • Collagen
  • Diet
  • Hair
  • Isotopes
  • Post-medieval

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