Strontium isotopes and concentrations in cremated bones suggest an increased salt consumption in Gallo-Roman diet

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Abstract

The high temperatures reached during cremation lead to the destruction of organic matter preventing the use of traditional isotopic methods for dietary reconstructions. Still, strontium isotope (87Sr/86Sr) and concentration ([Sr]) analyses of cremated human remains offer a novel way to assess changing consumption patterns in past populations that practiced cremation, as evidenced by a large amount of new data obtained from Metal Ages and Gallo-Roman human remains from Destelbergen, Belgium. The Gallo-Roman results show significantly higher [Sr] and a narrower interquartile range in 87Sr/86Sr (0.7093–0.7095), close to the value of modern-day seawater (0.7092). This contrasts with the Metal Ages results, which display lower concentrations and a wider range in 87Sr/86Sr (0.7094–0.7098). This typical Sr signature is also reflected in other sites and is most likely related to an introduction of marine Sr in the form of salt as a food preservative (e.g. salt-rich preserved meat, fish and fish sauce). Paradoxically, this study highlights caution is needed when using 87Sr/86Sr for palaeomobility studies in populations with high salt consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9280
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2022

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