Lost in transition: the dietary shifts from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages in the North Eastern Iberian Peninsula

Abstract

The Late Antiquity to the Early Middle age transition in the North Eastern Iberian Peninsula was a historical period of cultural, social and political changes. Both Germanics and North African peoples settled in this region in successive migratory waves. The impact of these population movements on the cultural habits of the local population has been barely explored. This paper explores the dietary changes of the population who were buried in the necropolis of the Churches of Sant Pere de Terrassa (Barcelona, Spain) during the Visigoth (fifth to eighth centuries ad) and Carolingian periods (ninth to tenth centuries ad). This study investigates the δ13C and δ15N stable isotopic values in bone collagen from 68 human samples and 36 faunal remains in order to improve the understanding of dietary changes that occurred during this transition. The results indicate a human diet based on C3-plants and livestock sources. On average, the Visigoth samples exhibited an enriched isotopic signal compared to that of the Carolingian period, which may be attributed to the consumption of high trophic level of animal protein. Some δ13C results of the adult human samples suggest that C4-plants (most probably millet) made proportionately smaller but significant contributions to the diet during the Visigoth period. The paleodietary data obtained here will be important for future further studies focused on the transition from the Late Antiquity to the Early Medieval period in the Iberian Peninsula, and the attending regional scale of changes. This will also give insight about how profound a transformation in policy and economy occurred during that period affected human consumer patterns in the region.

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Acknowledgments

All stable isotopic analyses were carried out at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), with technical assistance by Dr. Pau Comes and scientific supervision from Dr A. Rosell. Dr C. Tornero acknowledges the Beatriu de Pinós postdoctoral fellowship (BP-MSCA Cofound Code 2016-00346) from the Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR), Government of Catalonia, Spain. The work was supported by Generalitat de Catalunya (AGAUR, ref. 2017SGR1630). We thank Antonio Moro for providing the archaeological information for the site. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and Colin Forrestal for English proofreading. Finally, we would like to thank Michelle Alexander and Olalla López-Costas, the guest editors, the invitation to take part in this special issue “Iberian Paleodiet”

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Jordana, X., Malgosa, A., Casté, B. et al. Lost in transition: the dietary shifts from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages in the North Eastern Iberian Peninsula. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 11, 3751–3763 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-019-00777-9

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Keywords

  • Human palaeodiet
  • Weaning
  • Stable isotopes
  • Carbon and nitrogen
  • Human osteology
  • Tooth wear