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Stable isotope analysis and differences in diet and social status in northern Medieval Christian Spain (9th–13th centuries CE)

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Published copy (DOI)

Author(s)

  • Patxi Pérez-Ramallo
  • José Ignacio Lorenzo-Lizalde
  • Alexandra Staniewska
  • Belén Lopez
  • Michelle Alexander
  • Sara Marzo
  • Mary Lucas
  • Jana Ilgner
  • David Chivall
  • Aurora Grandal-d́Anglade
  • Patrick Roberts

Department/unit(s)

Publication details

JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Dec 2021
DateE-pub ahead of print - 24 Dec 2021
DatePublished (current) - 1 Feb 2022
Volume41
Number of pages12
Early online date24/12/21
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The Iberian Peninsula was at the forefront of the religious, economic, and political changes that swept across Europe during the Medieval Period, including the expansion of Christianity following the disintegration of the Umayyad Caliphate. Between the 9th and the 13th centuries CE, northern Iberia, in particular, witnessed a marked demographic and economic expansion that accompanied the emergence and development of different Christian Kingdoms. A growth in religious infrastructure driven by territorial expansion at the expense of Al-Andalus, and the emerging importance of the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) from the 11th century CE, represented vital processes in changing urban networks and social stratification. However, shifting diets and social structures brought about by these changes require direct study beyond historical texts or localised osteoarchaeological and biomolecular studies in order to determine their wider impacts on peoples’ lived experience. Here, we apply radiocarbon dating (n = 6) and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis to bone and dentine collagen from various locations (n = 10) across the north and north-eastern areas of modern Spain, where three prominent Medieval Christian Kingdoms (Aragon, Castille and Navarre) developed. We sampled 40 human and 32 faunal remains dating to between the 9th and 13th centuries CE, including historical personages such as Sancho Ramirez, Count of Ribagorza and an illegitimate son of King Ramiro I of Aragon; Saint Raymond William or San Ramón de Roda; Pedro de Librana, the first bishop of the city of Zaragoza after its conquest by the Christians in the 12th century CE; an unknown princess from the royal house of Aragon; and individuals from the urban and rural nuclei of Pamplona, Logroño, Lobera de Onsella (Zaragoza), and San Roque de las Quintanillas (Burgos). We compared our results to existing data from the same area demonstrating clear differences in access to animal protein and marine/freshwater resources between rural, urban, and high social status populations on a regional scale. Our data show significant differences in δ15N values between the different groups, with the highest values seen among the ‘elite’, followed by urban populations who benefited from trade and socio-economic diversity. This dataset acts as an important reference point for future studies focusing on changes in the diet and health among different sectors of Medieval society and, in particular, the development of social inequality in the Christian Kingdoms of Iberia as they formed at the centre of novel cultural and religious exchanges across Europe.

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project has been supported by a grant from the ?la Caixa? Banking Foundation (ID 100010434), Code: LCF/BQ/ES16/11570006. Patxi P?rez-Ramallo and Patrick Roberts would also like to thank the Max Planck Society for funding for this project. The authors extend their special gratitude to Prof Tom Higham and the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU), University of Oxford, Dr. Adri? Breu Barcons, Dr Jes?s Sesma Sesma and the Heritage and Government of Navarre, the Aranzadi Society of Science, The Museo of Burgos and Marta Negro Cobo; the Museo de Huesca, the heritage of the Government of Arag?n, Julia Justes and Bel?n Gimeno.

Funding Information:
This project has been supported by a grant from the “la Caixa” Banking Foundation (ID 100010434), Code: LCF/BQ/ES16/11570006. Patxi Pérez-Ramallo and Patrick Roberts would also like to thank the Max Planck Society for funding for this project. The authors extend their special gratitude to Prof Tom Higham and the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU), University of Oxford, Dr. Adrià Breu Barcons, Dr Jesús Sesma Sesma and the Heritage and Government of Navarre, the Aranzadi Society of Science, The Museo of Burgos and Marta Negro Cobo; the Museo de Huesca, the heritage of the Government of Aragón, Julia Justes and Belén Gimeno.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

    Research areas

  • Christianity, Elite, Middle Ages, Paleodiet, Spain, Urbanism

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