(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers at the University of York have reconstructed the diet of a British woman who lived in the Orkney Islands 2,000 years ago.
So far there has been no indication that, after the beginning of agriculture some 6,000 years ago and almost until the Middle Ages, the British ate fish.
This is strange for people who live near the sea. A new study shows that at least some seaside residents did eat fish, moreover, fish was the mainstay of the diet.
Tartar can tell a lot about ancient diets. If our ancestors brushed their teeth regularly, they would not have made such a gift to archaeologists.
The work, carried out at the British Geological Survey’s Isotope Center by researchers at the University of York, has led to a better understanding of the Iron Age lifestyle. The work showed that the diet of the ancient British included fish.
One would expect fish to be part of the diet of people living as close to the sea as in Britain, but they generally did not eat fish for thousands of years between the beginning of agriculture (about 6,000 years ago) and the medieval period.
Archaeologists helped the lower jaw of a woman. She was over 50 at the time of her death. The body was placed in a burial “vessel” woven from whalebone.
Three newborn lambs were also placed there. Deer antlers were placed nearby. Excavations are underway in the settlement of Cairns, South Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands (in the North East of Scotland).
Professor Ian Armit, from the Department of Archeology at the University of York, said: “Isotopic analysis of this woman’s jawbone previously showed traces of a marine squirrel.
But it was not clear whether fish was a regular part of her diet or only a necessity in her later years. She only has three teeth left.
They are worn and diseased, but even one tooth was enough for us to trace her diet from old age to infancy.”
The study showed that the woman ate fish regularly throughout her life. This suggests that Iron Age people in Orkney were active in fishing.
Cairns excavation director Martin Carruthers said: “Now we see that the seafood she ate was a common Iron Age dish.”
We recently told that our ancient ancestors did not adhere to a purely protein paleo diet at all. They ate a lot more.
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