Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 1887–1909 | Cite as

Dukes, elites, and commoners: dietary reconstruction of the early medieval population of Bohemia (9th–11th Century AD, Czech Republic)

  • Sylva KaupováEmail author
  • Petr Velemínský
  • Petra Stránská
  • Milena Bravermanová
  • Drahomíra Frolíková
  • Kateřina Tomková
  • Jan Frolík
Original Paper


This study explored dietary behavior in the context of the developing medieval power centers of Bohemia (9th–11th Century AD, Czech Republic) with an emphasis on the dietary behavior of elites and the socio-economic stratification within the population of the central places. Carbon and nitrogen isotopic values were measured in collagen samples from 102 humans and 24 animals excavated from the sites of two castles representing the main power centers and their hinterlands. The Bayesian software package FRUITS was employed to estimate the caloric contribution of C3 and C4 plants, terrestrial animals, and freshwater fish. Statistically significant differences in the consumption of animal products and millet were observed between castle elites versus castle non-elite and hinterland samples. Among burial sites located outside the castle areas, substantial dietary variation in terms of both carbon and nitrogen was observed in males but not in females. These results suggest the deep socio-economic stratification within the population of centers. The notable consumption of millet was typical of the lower socio-economic groups buried outside the castle areas. The almost total absence of adult male skeletons at some sites was accompanied by the low contribution of animal products to the diets of the males present. The high dietary variation observed within the ducal family suggests either the rapidly changing position of the Přemyslids during the formation of the Bohemian state structure or the sharp increase in the influence of the Church in terms of elite dietary behavior.


Quantitative diet reconstruction, stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen Middle ages Central Europe Elites Social status 



We would like to thank the following institutions for financial support: Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (Grant number: 14-36938G), Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic (Grant number: P15/01IG-KA and DKRVO 2017/18 and 2018/17, National Museum, 00023272). We thank International Science Editing for the English language editing. Also many thanks are due to Olga Trojánková for species determination of animal bones.

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyNational MuseumPraha 1Czech Republic
  2. 2.Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of SciencesPraha 1Czech Republic

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