Eating in prosperity: First stable isotope evidence of diet from Palatial Knossos

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Abstract

This paper discusses the first stable isotope evidence of diet from Protopalatial to Neopalatial Knossos on Crete to reconstruct individual long-term dietary records for people from the site, spanning the period circa 1900 to 1600 BC. The aim is to shed light onto the lifeways and social organization of the respective communities, and to investigate people's everyday life for evidence of the site's politico-economic supremacy in the Neopalatial period.Eighty-one human and 12 animal individuals from two Palatial cemeteries at Knossos were sampled for cortical bone and the extracted collagen was analyzed for stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios to trace relative proportions of (broad categories of) foodstuffs that they consumed on a day-to-day basis. The human collagen stable isotope signatures follow a broad distribution that reflects a range of diets, where animal protein, including marine in addition to terrestrial, was consumed at different levels. Faunal isotope values from the site are consistent with a terrestrial C3trophic context with apparently no C4protein input.The observed dietary variation in the human stable isotope ratios shows no clear sex-, tomb-, or cemetery-pattern; it rather follows a temporal trend that is in tune with contemporary socio-economic and political developments and the increasing prosperity of Knossos in the period investigated. Moreover, the study yielded the first positive human palaeodietary evidence for marine food consumption in Prehistoric Crete.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Aegean
  • Carbon
  • Diet
  • Knossos
  • Nitrogen
  • Social variation
  • Stable isotopes

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Authors

  • Argyro Nafplioti

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