Chapter

Food for Thought: Isotopic Evidence for Dietary and Weaning Practices in a Byzantine Urban Monastery in Jerusalem

Lesley A. Gregoricka and Susan G. Sheridan

in Bioarchaeology and Behavior

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780813042299
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780813043449 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813042299.003.0007
Food for Thought: Isotopic Evidence for Dietary and Weaning Practices in a Byzantine Urban Monastery in Jerusalem

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Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes from skeletal remains were utilized in reconstructing dietary and weaning practices for the adults (n=54) and children (n=56) interred at St. Stephen's monastery during the Byzantine period (5th to 7th century AD). Adult isotopic values indicate a diet consistent with historical reports and archaeobotanical evidence of available grains and produce. However, the presence of elevated nitrogen values in these monks demonstrates the surprising inclusion of a significant amount of animal protein in the diet. An enriched peak (indicative of breast milk consumption) and subsequent decline in subadult isotope values follow expected weaning patterns. Moreover, a gradual reduction in carbon values to adult monk levels suggests that these children ate foods comparable in Δ13C to that of the monks. Together with a rich textual and archaeological record, which provides an important cultural context for interpreting the biological data, stable isotopes offer valuable insight into the daily lives of the inhabitants of this Byzantine urban monastery.

Keywords: Jerusalem; Byzantine; Stable isotopes; Diet; Weaning

Chapter.  8654 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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