9.6.6 Medieval

Over the past 15 years, there has been a significant growth in stable isotope studies in historic periods, and perhaps one of the biggest growth areas in Britain has been the application of stable isotope approaches to explore medieval lifeways. This has included explorations of dietary differences with religion, status and site type (eg Müldner and Richards 2007; Müldner et al 2009; Müldner 2016; Curtis-Summers et al 2020), mobility histories (eg Müldner et al 2009; Lamb et al 2012), and infant feeding practices (eg Burt 2013; Britton et al 2018). As part of University of Aberdeen’s HES/AHRC funded Dark Ages Diet project stable isotope approaches were utilised to investigate the dietary variability in three major developing medieval urban centres of Scotland: Aberdeen, Perth and Edinburgh (Czére 2020). Easy access to sea routes was a crucial factor which gave an advantage to the trading cities situated on the east coast of medieval Scotland, many of which developed into royal burghs, with exclusive rights to engage in international trade (Booton 1988). Although not a coastal settlement, along with Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Perth also became a royal burgh and it was a crucial Scottish port. Thus the merchants of Perth were actively trading overseas, and in direct contact with their counterparts in Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh in particular (Whyte 2014). To explore the dietary landscape of this formative period within these medieval urban centres, including Perth, stable carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotope analytical techniques have been employed on human and faunal skeletal remains from local medieval sites (Czére 2020).

Map of medieval Perth ©️ David P Bowler