Diet and mobility in Early Medieval Bavaria: A study of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes

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Abstract

This study investigates patterns of mobility in Early Medieval Bavaria through a combined study of diet and associated burial practice. Carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios were analyzed in human bone samples from the Late Roman cemetery of Klettham and from the Early Medieval cemeteries of Altenerding and Straubing-Bajuwarenstrasse. For dietary comparison, samples of faunal bone from one Late Roman and three Early Medieval settlement sites were also analyzed. The results indicate that the average diet was in keeping with a landlocked environment and fairly limited availability of freshwater or marine resources. The diet appears not to have changed significantly from the Late Roman to the Early Medieval period. However, in the population of Altenerding, there were significant differences in the diet of men and women, supporting a hypothesis of greater mobility among women. Furthermore, the isotopic evidence from dietary outliers is supported by “foreign” grave goods and practices, such as artificial skull modification. These results reveal the potential of carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis for questions regarding migration and mobility. Am J Phys Anthropol 143:235–249, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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