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Changes in dietary practices and social organization during the pivotal late iron age period in Norway (AD 550–1030): Isotope analyses of merovingian and viking age human remains


  • Elise Naumann,

    1. Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Norway
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  • T. Douglas Price,

    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
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  • Michael P. Richards

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
    2. Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
    3. Department of Archaeology, University of Durham, Durham, UK
    • Correspondence to: Michael P. Richards, The University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology, AnSo Building 2208. E-mail:

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  • Paper emanated from: University of oslo, Norway, 0315 Oslo and Max Plack Insitute of Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, 04103 Leipzig


Human remains representing 33 individuals buried along the coast in northern Norway were analyzed for diet composition using collagen stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis. Where possible, both teeth and bone were included to investigate whether there were dietary changes from childhood to adulthood. A general shift was documented from the Merovingian Age 550–800 AD to the Viking Age AD 800–1050 (VA), with a heavier reliance on marine diet in the VA. Dietary life history data show that 15 individuals changed their diets through life with 11 of these having consumed more marine foods in the later years of life. In combination with 87Sr/86Sr data, it is argued that at least six individuals possibly originated from inland areas and then moved to the coastal region where they were eventually interred. The trend is considered in relation to the increasing expansion of the marine fishing industry at this time, and it is suggested that results from isotope analyses reflect the expanding production and export of stockfish in this region. Am J Phys Anthropol 155:322–331, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.