Integrating isotopes and documentary evidence: dietary patterns in a late medieval and early modern mining community, Sweden

Ylva Bäckström (Corresponding Author), Jan Mispelaere, Anne Ingvarsson, Markus Fjellstrom, Kate Britton

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This study explores the relationship between dietary patterns and social structure in a pre-industrial mining community in Salberget, Sweden c. 1470 to 1600 A.D. using a combination of different research approaches and tools, including archaeology, osteology, bone chemistry and history. The correlation between demographic criteria (sex and age) and archaeological variables (burial type and burial location) shows that Salberget was a highly stratified community. Group diets were investigated through analyses of stable isotopes (carbon, δ13C, and nitrogen, δ15N) of bone collagen from a sub-sample of individuals buried at the site (n = 67), interpreted alongside data from human dental lesions and deficiencies, animal bone waste and information on eating habits extracted from the extensive historical documents regarding mining activities at Salberget. These integrated analyses provide a clear association between social status and diet and confirm that social status, and to a lesser extent sex, gender and age, likely governed food choice and opportunity in this diverse community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2075-2094
Number of pages20
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number8
Early online date12 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank the Archaeological Research Laboratory, Stockholm University, Sweden and the Tandem Laboratory (Ångström Laboratory), Uppsala University, Sweden, for undertaking the analyses of stable nitrogen and carbon isotopes in both human and animal collagen samples. Also, thanks to Elin Ahlin Sundman for providing the δ13C and δ15N values for animal references from Västerås.

This research (Bäckström’s PhD employment at Lund University, Sweden) was supported by the Berit Wallenberg Foundation (BWS 2010.0176) and Jakob and Johan Söderberg’s foundation. The ‘Sala project’ (excavations and analyses) has been funded by Riksens Clenodium, Jernkontoret, Birgit and Gad Rausing’s Foundation, SAU’s Research Foundation, the Royal Physiographic Society of Lund, Berit Wallenbergs Foundation, Åke Wibergs Foundation, Lars Hiertas Memory, Helge Ax:son Johnson’s Foundation and The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.


  • Late medieval/early modern
  • Preindustrial
  • Identities
  • Diet
  • Documentary sources
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Isotopes
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Dental palaeopathology


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