Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 8, pp 2047–2058 | Cite as

Isotopic evidence for the reconstruction of diet and mobility during village formation in the Early Middle Ages: Las Gobas (Burgos, northern Spain)

  • Iranzu Guede
  • Luis Angel Ortega
  • Maria Cruz Zuluaga
  • Ainhoa Alonso-Olazabal
  • Xabier Murelaga
  • José Luis Solaun
  • Iban Sanchez
  • Agustín Azkarate
Original Paper


Strontium, carbon, and nitrogen isotopes of human bone and tooth remains have been used to reconstruct residential mobility and diet of early medieval populations at Las Gobas from the sixth to eleventh centuries. Most non-local individuals correspond to the tenth to eleventh centuries and were mostly women and infants. This residential mobility coincided with the formation of Laño village and the abandonment of artificial cave settlement. Carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of bone collagen indicate an omnivorous homogenous diet based on terrestrial plant resources, with few animal-derived proteins from livestock. Millet consumption was restricted to an earlier period of time (seventh to ninth centuries); and in later periods (tenth to eleventh centuries), mainly C3 plants such as wheat and barley were consumed. In general, there were no dietary differences between individuals according to sex or age. Sex-related dietary differences have only been observed in the tenth to eleventh centuries, when females consumed a more vegetarian diet and less animal protein. The higher δ 15N values in infants reflect the weaning effect, while the differences in δ 15N values between young adult men and young adult women can be explained as a physiological factor related to pregnancy or different origins. In a comparison with contemporaneous medieval populations in the northern Iberian Peninsula, both δ 13C and δ 15N values suggest similar foodstuff resources and diet among Christian and Muslim populations.


Palaeodietary patterns Human migration Rock-hewn dwelling Middle Age Northern Iberian Peninsula 



This work has been supported financially by the Research Project HAR2010-20903 funded by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad of the Spanish Government and Research Group GIU15/34 of the University of the Basque Country-UPV/EHU. IG has received a PRE-2013-1-329 PhD research grant of the Basque Country Government. The authors thank the anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions on the manuscript. They also would like to thank Peter Smith for language assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iranzu Guede
    • 1
  • Luis Angel Ortega
    • 1
  • Maria Cruz Zuluaga
    • 1
  • Ainhoa Alonso-Olazabal
    • 1
  • Xabier Murelaga
    • 2
  • José Luis Solaun
    • 3
  • Iban Sanchez
    • 3
  • Agustín Azkarate
    • 3
  1. 1.Deparment of Mineralogy and Petrology, Faculty of Science and TechnologyUPV/EHULeioaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Stratigraphy and Palaeontology, Faculty of Science and TechnologyUPV/EHULeioaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Geography, Prehistory and Archaeology, Faculty of ArtsUPV/EHUVitoria-GasteizSpain

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