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Re-investigating fish consumption in Greek antiquity: Results from δ13C and δ15N analysis from fish bone collagen

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Publication details

JournalJournal of archaeological science
DatePublished - May 2012
Issue number5
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)1618-1627
Original languageEnglish


One of the frequently encountered issues in ancient Greek dietary reconstructions through isotope analyses has been the apparent unimportance of fish protein in human diets. The significance of this observation is amplified by the abundant ichthyofaunal remains, iconographic evidence and literary information on fish and fishing, pertaining to almost all sites and time periods of Greek antiquity. In this project, we measured for the first time isotopes from a large number of fish bones from Greek sites dating from the Mesolithic to the Classical times, aiming to investigate whether this absence is an artefact of the methodology or whether it reflects a reality of restricted fish consumption. Results show that regional trends are stronger that temporal ones in fish isotope values. The range of values overlaps with terrestrial resources, making it difficult or impossible to reject fish consumption based on isotope data alone. This variability proposes a reconsideration of the amount of fish in ancient Greek diets specifically for each site and amplifies the importance of interdisciplinary studies, especially for regions with variable ecological resources.

    Research areas

  • Aegean, Ancient Greece, Collagen, Diet, Fish, Stable isotopes

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