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Title: Moving Beyond Childhood: Reconstructing Dietary Life Histories of Bronze Age and Byzantine Greeks Using Stable Isotope Analysis of Dental and Skeletal Remains
Author: Kwok, Cynthia S.
Advisor: Katzenberg, M. Anne
Keywords: Archaeology;Anthropology--Physical;History--Ancient;Biogeochemistry
Issue Date: 3-Dec-2015
Abstract: This dissertation examines infant feeding practices and diet in human skeletal remains from Kalamaki (Bronze Age, 3100-1065 BC), Nemea and Stymphalos (Byzantine, AD 5th-6th centuries). Dietary life histories were constructed for 79 individuals by analyzing stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in collagen extracted from serial sections of dentin (n = 530) and from bones (n = 29). The isotopic evidence was compared to the written sources outlining dietary practices of the ancient Greeks. Using multiple sources, this dissertation aims to explore variation in infant feeding practices and subsistence among individuals, between the sexes, and over time. The isotopic evidence demonstrated that most individuals were consuming breast milk during infancy and were fully weaned by two and three years of age. Variation existed, as some individuals were never breastfed during infancy. Comparison of infant feeding practices between the sexes showed that males and females from all three sites were fully weaned around the same age, which suggests boys and girls were treated equally, with respect to infant feeding practices. The post-weaning diet was comprised of C3 terrestrial based resources, which, as indicated by the written sources consisted of cereals, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meat. Diets were not homogenous, as many individuals displayed moderate to large isotopic shifts. One individual from Nemea was reliant on a marine diet, which suggests he lived elsewhere during childhood. Inter-individual comparisons showed that children were given a limited range of foods at Kalamaki, in contrast to the dietary breadth observed among individuals from Nemea and Stymphalos. Furthermore, several boys consumed greater amounts of high-protein foods than girls, which suggests boys were favoured in some housholds at Nemea. Temporal comparisons showed that diets during the Byzantine Empire were more heterogeneous and included greater amounts of meat with minor supplementation from marine fish and C4 grains such as millet. Socio-cultural changes such as trade, mobility, and markets, explain the dietary breadth observed during the Early Byzantine Empire. Overall, the benefits of using dentin serial section analysis were highlighted. Combined with the written sources, it was possible to uncover and understand the life history of the ancient Greeks.   Word Count: 350/350
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