Diet as indicated by Stable Isotope Analysis of human remains in Medieval Greece

Poster display and handout by Sandra Garvie-Lok
Presented at the annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, 2003

"The carbonate C-13 / C-14 values of most Orthodox and Frankish groups suggest primary dependence upon wheat or barley, with millet forming a very minor part of the diet. The exception is Frankish Corinth II, where high C-13 / C-14 values suggest that up to 25% of the grain consumed was millet. The cemetery was used in the time of relative hardship at Corinth that followed the earthquake and Catalan raid in the early 14th century. Several sources documenting millet use identify this grain as a food of bad times."

"Animal products formed a major part of the diet."

"Most dietary protein did not come from grains or legumes, but rather from meta, dairy products or eggs."

"Marine resources were not a primary staple."

"There are few detectable ethnic differences in diety (betwen Greek Orthodox, Frankish, and Ottoman Muslims)."

Frankish Corinth (Greece)
Excavated by the American Schools of Classical Studies at Athens

published by Charles K. Williams II, Ethne Barnes and Lynn M. Snyder in Hesperia Vol. 66, no. 1

published by Charles R. Williams II, Lynn M. Snyder, Ethne Barnes and Orestes H. Zervos in Hesperia Vol. 67, No. 3

Medieval Chronology of Corinth

1346 Plague causes death in Corinth
1312 Second several earthquak strikes Corinth
1312 Catalan attack with great loss of life and looting
1305 Philip of Savoy and Isabel Villeharouin select Corinth for their general parliament and joust.
1300 Severe earthquake strikes Corinth

Zooarchaeological analysis by Lynn M. Snyder, Smithsonian Institution: Fill within a vaulted chamber (built after AD 1312) in the area southeast of Temple E contained a normal sample of sheep/goat and cow bones, but also echinus spines and eggshells. Pottery evidence suggests that the chamber was filled by approximately AD 1350. The presence of highly decorated pottery bowls suggests that the fill (soil, sherds, and bones) were generated by an elite household.

Seven discrete trashpits were discovered in 1996 at Corinth. The contents of the trashpits included food remains as well as partial remains of domesticated cats, dogs, horses/donkeys.

Pit 1996 - 1
60% of bones are sheep/goat and pig bones

Cut joints of sheep, cattle and pit limb bones

Roasts and/or chops included split vertebrae and ribs

Bird bones, fish bones, and some shell. A few human bones were the result of the pit disturbed a 12th century Byzantine burial.

13th century green or brown glaze-decorated local fineware pottey

Pit 1996 - 3
Sheep/Goat (often impossible to differentiate)
Cow (only 7.4%)

Food bones (66.7%)
Butchering scrap (33.3%)
Several equid (horse/donkey) jawbone fragments and broken humerus)

Pit 1996 - 4
6 bones for at least two "domestic-fowl-sized" birds
3 bones from a horse

Food bones (60.3%)
Butchering scrap (39.7%)

Pits 1996 - 5 and 6

Pit 1996 - 10
Level 1 (Upper)
Lab or kid bones include skull fragments and jawbones. This level also included cattle bones and a horn that had been sawn free of a cow or steer.

Level 3 (Middle) contained bones of a lamb or kid (less than 3 months) represented by leg bones, ribs, and jawbones.

Beef rib bones like in the lowest level

Pork roast indicated by left leg bone that is 12 cm. (5 inches)

5 domestic fowls that were cooked without skull, neck, or feet

Level 4 (Lower) contains 3 dishes/meals.

- a rack of vertebrae and ribs from a sheep or goat.

- single rib slab of beef cut in 15 cm. (6 inches) in length

Courtyard area of Unit 7

80% are sheep/goat

Frankish coins from the 13th to 14th century:

Philip of Tarento (1306 - 1313)
Philip of Savoy (1301 - 1306)
Isabelle of Villehardouin (1297 - 1301)
Charles I or II (1278 - 1289)
William of Villehardouin (1245 - 1278)
Philip Augustus (1180-1223) or Louis IX (1226 - 1270)
Isaac II (1185 - 1195)
Philip Augustus (1180-1223)
Manuel I (1143 - 1180)
John II (1118 - 1143)
Alexius I (1081 - 1118)
Nicephorus (802 - 811)

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