Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 375–386 | Cite as

Metals and millets: Bronze and Iron Age diet in inland and coastal Croatia seen through stable isotope analysis

  • Emma LightfootEmail author
  • Mario Šlaus
  • Petra Rajić Šikanjić
  • Tamsin C. O’Connell
Original Paper


The Bronze and Iron Ages were times of social change throughout Europe, with the development of hillforts and monumental architecture, technological advances and increases in economic specialization and social hierarchy. The extent to which these developments were concurrent with changes in subsistence practices, particularly in the Balkans, is less clear. Croatia provides an opportunity to compare two regions, the inland and coastal zones, with potentially different responses to the social changes through these periods. Here, we present the results of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis of humans from Bronze and Iron Age coastal Croatia and compare these results to the more limited dataset from inland Croatia. The data indicate that in the coastal zone, there was little change in diet between the Bronze and Iron Ages, with perhaps a slight increase in millet consumption or a shift in the environmental carbon isotopic baseline through time. The limited inland dataset, however, suggests that there was a notable increase in millet consumption through these time periods, indicating that in the Iron Age, the inland and coastal zones followed different subsistence strategies. The Iron Age coastal site of Nadin-Gradina provides an opportunity to explore the social value of millet, as individuals buried in simple pits have higher levels of millet consumption than those buried in stone-lined graves, implying that, at this site at least, millet was a low status food.


Bone collagen Subsistence Palaeodiet Prehistory Carbon Nitrogen 



The authors are grateful to Catherine Kneale and James Rolfe (University of Cambridge) for their assistance with the isotopic analyses. Dr Jane S. Gaastra and Dr Kelly Reed are thanked for their useful discussions of the manuscript and provision of comparative zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical documents. Dora Kemp is also thanked for her help with the production of Fig. 1. The authors also wish to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. This work arises out of EL’s PhD research (University of Cambridge) funded by the AHRC. EL is currently funded by Darwin College, Cambridge.

Supplementary material

12520_2014_194_MOESM1_ESM.docx (129 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 128 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma Lightfoot
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mario Šlaus
    • 2
  • Petra Rajić Šikanjić
    • 3
  • Tamsin C. O’Connell
    • 4
  1. 1.McDonald Institute for Archaeological ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Anthropological Center, Croatian Academy of Sciences and ArtsZagrebCroatia
  3. 3.Institute for Anthropological ResearchZagrebCroatia
  4. 4.Department of Archaeology and AnthropologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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