Anglo-Saxon diet in the Conversion period: A comparative isotopic study using carbon and nitrogen

Emma L. Hannah, T. Rowan McLaughlin, Evelyn M. Keaveney, Susanne E. Hakenbeck

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Seventh-century Anglo-Saxon England is characterised by great social and religious change. The arrival of missionaries from Rome in 597 CE initiated the gradual process of conversion to Christianity. There is growing evidence for increasing hierarchy and social stratification in the archaeological record at this time, including prominent kingly burials. This paper investigates whether diet was influenced by social stratification and to a lesser extent religion in two seventh-century cemetery populations: Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, and Polhill, Kent. Analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes from 116 human individuals was undertaken. Factors considered included age, sex, wealth and other notable grave features. Results showed that the diets of both populations were largely unaffected by these wider social processes, with negligible differences between social groups. The results were placed in the context of wider Anglo-Saxon dietary studies and highlight that Anglo-Saxon populations consistently display overwhelmingly similar ranges of carbon and nitrogen isotopes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-34
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science Reports
Early online date21 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


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