Using stable isotopes and functional weed ecology to explore social differences in early urban contexts: The case of Lattara in mediterranean France

Publication date: May 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 93
Author(s): Rudolph Alagich, Armelle Gardeisen, Natàlia Alonso, Núria Rovira, Amy Bogaard
Integrated stable isotope investigation of plant and animal ecology can shed new light on the practicalities and politics of land management. Ecological analysis of archaeobotanical weed flora offers a complementary approach to arable growing conditions. Here we introduce the first combined study of stable isotope compositions (carbon and nitrogen) of plant and faunal remains and functional weed ecology from mediterranean France in order to investigate agricultural strategies under urbanisation and their social implications. Animal bones and charred crops and weeds are investigated from two archaeologically distinct residential areas from 5th century BCE Lattara, zones 1 and 27, during a period characterised by significant urban expansion in the region. Plant carbon and nitrogen isotope composition and functional weed ecology suggest some differences in growing conditions between crops found in the two zones, zone 27 being associated with more intensively cultivated crops than zone 1, where extensive cultivation, which can achieve much greater surplus, was dominant. These findings coincide with archaeological evidence of a ‘richer’ variety of material culture and foodstuffs in zone 1. Carbon and nitrogen isotopic values of animal bone collagen suggest that the main domesticates from both zones consumed a similar diet; however, rabbits exhibit a difference, with those from zone 1 having significantly higher δ15N, implying that the two zones sourced this species differently.