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Boom and bust at a medieval fishing port: dietary preferences of fishers and artisan families from Pontevedra (Galicia, NW Spain) during the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period

López-Costas, O. and Müldner, G. (2018) Boom and bust at a medieval fishing port: dietary preferences of fishers and artisan families from Pontevedra (Galicia, NW Spain) during the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. ISSN 1866-9565

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s12520-018-0733-4

Abstract/Summary

Here, we present an investigation of dietary habits in a town whose history is strongly connected to a single food product: fish. Pontevedra (Galicia, Spain) controlled a big part of fish commerce in the Iberian Peninsula during the Late Medieval period, only losing its position with the beginning of modern era. Burials from the churches of Santa María (thirteenth to seventeenth centuries AD), the necropolis of fishers, and San Bartolomé (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries AD), with a parish mostly made up of craftspeople, were studied to address questions of diet and subsistence practices. A total of 89 samples, including 63 humans, 18 terrestrial and 8 marine animals, were analysed for isotopic composition of bone collagen (δ13C and δ15N). The results show that domestic herbivores were fed a fodder almost exclusively based on C3 plants, while dogs and a cat consumed significant quantities of fish. Humans ate a similar, mixed terrestrial/marine diet, but probably also with an important contribution from C4 plants, most likely millet, or, from c. AD 1600 onwards, maize. Fishermen and their families buried at Santa María could have had preferential access to exported target sea products enriched in 15N (salted sardine, conger eel, hake and octopus), while other marine products may have been more common on the rest of the town’s tables. The decline in fishing activity in the sixteenth–seventeenth centuries appears to have been accompanied by a diversification of diet. The dietary habits of the middle-class urban inhabitants of Pontevedra are closely connected to its economic history and environmental changes.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:81201
Publisher:Springer

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