Isotopic evidence of Bronze Age diet and subsistence practices in the southeastern Carpathian Bend area, Romania
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Human and faunal osteological material from the southeastern Carpathian Bend area, Romania, was analysed for δ13C, δ15N and δ34S to reconstruct the dietary practices of the Middle Bronze Age Monteoru culture. As a secondary objective, the extent of intraskeletal variation in stable isotope values was investigated by comparing skeletal elements with differing collagen turnover rates. The intraskeletal isotope results revealed a pattern where cortical bone samples produced statistically lower δ13C values compared to trabecular bone samples, highlighting the necessity for more systematic research to understand how stable isotopes are incorporated into bone collagen of various skeletal elements. Diet in the Monteoru culture was shown to be exclusively or predominantly terrestrial in origin with no detectable input of C4 or marine resources. Differences in average δ13C and δ15N values between the two sites included in the study (representing distinct phases of the culture) suggest a shift in dietary preferences from a more meat-based economy to a more dairy- and plant-based economy. The dissimilar contribution of animal foods to overall diet between the two sites was supported by estimates generated by the Bayesian mixing model FRUITS, which also showed that in both sites plant foods accounted for most of the calories consumed. The faunal isotopic data contained a few outliers, suggestive of deliberate movement of livestock, either through long-distance herding or trade. A combined approach using juvenile bone collagen and incrementally sectioned tooth dentine from adults demonstrates that the duration of breastfeeding varied between individuals, but that there were no significant differences in weaning practices between survivors and non-survivors. Sulphur isotopes reflect a population that was relatively homogeneous in its isotopic composition and local in origin, except for the presence of two possible migrants. The δ13C and δ15N data from the Carpathian Bend are comparable to those from contemporaneous sites in coastal and inland Greece and Croatia, suggesting a broad uniformity in Bronze Age dietary practices across Southeast Europe. As the first major stable isotope study conducted on osteological material from the Romanian Sub- Carpathians, this thesis provides new insights into the lives of these communities, expands our knowledge of Bronze Age subsistence strategies in Southeast Europe, and establishes a foundation for further isotopic investigations in the region.