Divergence, diet, and disease: the identification of group identity, landscape use, health, and mobility in the fifth- to sixth-century AD burial community of Echt, the Netherlands

Barbara Veselka, Giacomo Capuzzo, Rica Annaert, Nadine Mattielli, Mathieu Boudin, Sarah Dalle, Marta Hlad, Charlotte Sabaux, Kevin Salesse, Amanda Sengeløv, Elisavet Stamataki, Dries Tys, Martine Vercauteren, Eugène Warmenbol, Guy De Mulder, Christophe Snoeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study aims to better understand the development of group identity, mobility, and health in the Early Medieval Meuse Valley. This is achieved by combining existing demographic and palaeopathological information from 73 cremation deposits from Echt, the Netherlands, with new strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) and strontium concentrations ([Sr]) that are performed on pars petrosa, diaphysis, and rib fragments. Although the surrounding Early Medieval cemeteries practiced inhumation, the initial burial community of Echt persisted in expressing the divergent burial ritual of cremation. Thirty-two radiocarbon dates demonstrate the fifth- to sixth-century cremation deposits to be chronologically separated from the seventh-century inhumations that were preserved in situ, suggesting a subsequent burial community replaced cremation with inhumation in the seventh century. Nutritionally inadequate diets may have contributed to the relatively high prevalence of porotic hyperostosis (~ 34%), resulting from decreasing foods supplies caused by deteriorating climatic conditions. The inhabitants are postulated to have mainly consumed foods originating from the land directly surrounding their farmsteads, expressed by the great variability in the 87Sr/86Sr of the diaphyses and ribs (0.7096 to 0.7131), matching the geological complexity of the area. The lack of significant differences between the 87Sr/86Sr and [Sr] of ribs and diaphyses connotes little change in the geological origin of the foods occurred over time, stressing the importance of the yield of local harvests. In contrast, large differences in childhood (i.e. pars petrosa) vs. adult (i.e. ribs and diaphyses) 87Sr/86Sr suggest the regional movement of individuals to possibly support inter-farmstead relationships (e.g. via marriages).

Original languageEnglish
Article number97
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Volume13
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

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