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Title: Reconstructing Christian lifeways : a bioarchaeological study of medieval inhabitants from Portmahomack, Scotland and Norton Priory, England
Author: Curtis-Summers, Shirley
ISNI:       0000 0004 5368 9489
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis investigates lifeways of medieval Christian communities from Portmahomack, Northeast Scotland and Norton Priory, Northwest England, to ascertain the extent to which skeletal indicators of diet, disease or trauma reflect religious or social influences. Osteology and palaeopathology methods on human adult and sub-adult skeletons from Portmahomack (6th to 17th century) and Norton Priory (12th to 16th century) was undertaken to provide evidence relating to the four key themes proposed in this study: ‘biological or familial affinity’, ‘the living environment’, ‘trauma and conflict’, and ‘diet and nutrition-related stresses’. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of bone collagen from adult humans from Portmahomack (including and a sub-sample of sub-adults) and Norton Priory were measured for dietary reconstructions. Faunal bone collagen was also analysed from Portmahomack and Norton Priory (plus a selection of fish bones from Chester Cathedral) to provide isotopic baselines to reconstruct human diets. The results suggest past lifeways of Christian communities from Portmahomack and Norton Priory can indeed be successfully reconstructed through bioarchaeology. The evidence from this study has found that skeletal traits, alongside burial evidence, can elucidate familial affinities, especially from Norton Priory, and that differences in cultural and religious practices are reflected within the living environment of ecclesiastic and lay groups. Evidence of violence, reflecting interpersonal conflict and vulnerability was found from both Portmahomack and Norton Priory, which was inconsistent with the role of ecclesiastic and lay communities that were expected to follow strict Christian doctrines. Stable isotope data revealed a diachronic change in diet at Portmahomack; no fish were consumed during the monastic period, whereas significant amounts were consumed by layfolk in the later periods, suggesting Christian dietary practices changed over time. The isotope data from Norton Priory reflected a more homogeneous diet that did not change greatly over time, suggesting conformity to the same fasting practices. Overall, this study has demonstrated that adopting a multidisciplinary bioarchaeological approach, integrating skeletal, chemical, archaeological, and historical evidence, results in a powerful research tool that enables reconstructions of medieval Christian lifeways and interpretations of religious and social influences therein.
Supervisor: Pearson, J. ; Mytum, H. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: CC Archaeology