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  Stable isotope analysis and differences in diet and social status in northern Medieval Christian Spain (9th–13th centuries CE)

Perez Ramallo, P., Lorenzo-Lizalde, J. I., Staniewska, A., Lopez, B., Alexander, M., Marzo, S., et al. (2022). Stable isotope analysis and differences in diet and social status in northern Medieval Christian Spain (9th–13th centuries CE). Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 41: 103325. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2021.103325.

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Perez Ramallo, Patxi1, Author              
Lorenzo-Lizalde, José Ignacio, Author
Staniewska, Alexandra, Author
Lopez, Belén, Author
Alexander, Michelle, Author
Marzo, Sara, Author
Lucas, Mary1, Author              
Ilgner, Jana1, Author              
Chivall, David, Author
Grandal-d́Anglade, Aurora, Author
Roberts, Patrick1, Author              
1Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society, ou_2074312              


Free keywords: Paleodiet, Elite, Middle Ages, Spain, Urbanism, Christianity
 Abstract: The Iberian Peninsula was at the forefront of the religious, economic, and political changes that swept across Europe during the Medieval Period, including the expansion of Christianity following the disintegration of the Umayyad Caliphate. Between the 9th and the 13th centuries CE, northern Iberia, in particular, witnessed a marked demographic and economic expansion that accompanied the emergence and development of different Christian Kingdoms. A growth in religious infrastructure driven by territorial expansion at the expense of Al-Andalus, and the emerging importance of the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) from the 11th century CE, represented vital processes in changing urban networks and social stratification. However, shifting diets and social structures brought about by these changes require direct study beyond historical texts or localised osteoarchaeological and biomolecular studies in order to determine their wider impacts on peoples’ lived experience. Here, we apply radiocarbon dating (n = 6) and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis to bone and dentine collagen from various locations (n = 10) across the north and north-eastern areas of modern Spain, where three prominent Medieval Christian Kingdoms (Aragon, Castille and Navarre) developed. We sampled 40 human and 32 faunal remains dating to between the 9th and 13th centuries CE, including historical personages such as Sancho Ramirez, Count of Ribagorza and an illegitimate son of King Ramiro I of Aragon; Saint Raymond William or San Ramón de Roda; Pedro de Librana, the first bishop of the city of Zaragoza after its conquest by the Christians in the 12th century CE; an unknown princess from the royal house of Aragon; and individuals from the urban and rural nuclei of Pamplona, Logroño, Lobera de Onsella (Zaragoza), and San Roque de las Quintanillas (Burgos). We compared our results to existing data from the same area demonstrating clear differences in access to animal protein and marine/freshwater resources between rural, urban, and high social status populations on a regional scale. Our data show significant differences in δ15N values between the different groups, with the highest values seen among the ‘elite’, followed by urban populations who benefited from trade and socio-economic diversity. This dataset acts as an important reference point for future studies focusing on changes in the diet and health among different sectors of Medieval society and, in particular, the development of social inequality in the Christian Kingdoms of Iberia as they formed at the centre of novel cultural and religious exchanges across Europe.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2021-12-242022-02
 Publication Status: Published in print
 Pages: -
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: . Introduction
2. Background
2.1. The urban and rural sites, social elites, and their archaeological and historical contexts
2.1.1. Archaeological sites
2.1.2. Abbey of San Pedro de Siresa, Huesca, Aragon (9th–10th centuries CE)
2.1.3. Social ‘elite’ personages
2.2. Historical insights into Medieval Iberian diets
2.3. Stable isotope analysis and dietary reconstruction in Medieval Europe
3. Materials and methods
3.1. Radiocarbon dating
3.2. δ13C and δ15N analysis of bone and dentine collagen
3.3. Statistical analysis
4. Results
4.1. Radiocarbon dating
4.2. Fauna δ13C and δ15N
4.3. Human δ13C and δ15N
5. Discussion
5.1. Diet and social status
5.2. Comparison with published data
6. Conclusion
 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2021.103325
Other: shh3118
 Degree: -



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Title: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Source Genre: Journal
Publ. Info: Amsterdam [u.a.] : Elsevier
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 41 Sequence Number: 103325 Start / End Page: - Identifier: ISSN: 2352-409X
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/2352-409X