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Stable isotopes and diet: their contribution to Romano-British research

The study of stable isotopes surviving in human bone is fast becoming a standard response in the analysis of cemeteries. Reviewing the state of the art for Roman Britain, the author shows clear indications of a change in diet (for the better) following the Romanisation of Iron Age Britain-including more seafood, and more nutritional variety in the towns. While samples from the bones report an average of diet over the years leading up to an individual's death, carbon and nitrogen signatures taken from the teeth may have a biographical element-capturing those childhood dinners. In this way migrants have been detected-as in the likely presence of Africans in Roman York. While not unexpected, these results show the increasing power of stable isotopes to comment on populations subject to demographic pressures of every kind.


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