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by Archaeology Newsroom

Paleonutrition: Stable Isotopes and Archaeology

Nutrition represents a basic problematic of the archaeological thought. By studying the nutritious behavior, we can reach some conclusions on the function of society, the division of labor between sexes, the relation of religious rituals to food (offering, consumption, restriction). Besides covering the needs of survival, nutrition is also determined by the various preferences generated by society and civilization. In the research process of nutrition, the analysis of the stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen of the bones collagen is based on the principle that the collagen rate corresponds to the rate of the nutrition goods consumed plus a percentage of concentration. More specifically, the percentage of carbon (δ13C) indicates if the protein derives from sea or land (fish or meat) and also if plants, like corn, with C4 way of photosynthesis have been consumed. Whereas the percentage of nitrogen (δ15N) shows if the protein is vegetable or animal, the bone collagen is used in archaeology, since it is the only organic substance that is preserved in satisfactory for analysis levels. The present article deals with Kalamaki, a Bronze Age cemetery in the area of Achaia. Although the condition of the bones preserved there is very bad, the analysis shows a generally uniform nutrition, with meat, dairy products and cereals as protein source. The absence of fish from this nutrition has to be studied, in order the conditions that affected its consumption to be established.