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Grim up North? Exploring the diet of urban populations in post-medieval Greater Manchester, England, using stable isotope analysis

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Chidimuro, B 
Holst, M 
Newman, S 
Keefe, K 
Collins, MJ 


jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pHistorical evidence suggests that social status played a major role in all aspects of society in eighteenth–nineteenth century England. We present an insight into how socioeconomic status affected the dietary habits of two post-medieval urban populations from Greater Manchester, northwest England. Stable carbon (δjats:sup13</jats:sup>C) and nitrogen (δjats:sup15</jats:sup>N) isotope ratios were measured in humans from Cross Street Unitarian Chapel (middle class: jats:italicn</jats:italic> = 90) in Manchester city centre and Chapel Street, Hazel Grove (lower status with few middle-class individuals: jats:italicn</jats:italic> = 34). A large sample of 111 faunal remains from Cross Street (jats:italicn</jats:italic> = 37) and Norton Priory, Cheshire (jats:italicn</jats:italic> = 74), provide an animal baseline, dramatically expanding the post-medieval animal isotopic dataset for England. Sheep from Norton Priory show high δjats:sup15</jats:sup>N isotope values indicative of saltmarsh grazing. Results for human populations revealed a mixed diet of plant and animal protein from Cjats:sub3</jats:sub> terrestrial environments with some potential contribution of aquatic protein. Significant differences revealed between the two populations indicate unequal access to food by status. Intra-population variation at Hazel Grove suggests dietary distinctions by age and sex. Non-adults consumed diets poor in high trophic level protein, whereas adult males consumed greater amounts of animal products. Conversely, the data suggests that at the wealthier Cross Street, there was greater access to high trophic level protein by all. Comparisons between the Manchester populations and those from similar socioeconomic classes from the Midlands and southern England, including London, reveal a bioarchaeological picture of dietary diversity and differential access to resources which impact significantly on well-being during this tumultuous period of industrial England.</jats:p>


Acknowledgements: Thanks go to CFA Archaeology and Runcorn Development Corporation for giving permission to analyse the human populations studied here. Thanks also go to Jamie Walker from CFA Archaeology and Lynn Smith from Norton Priory Museum and Gardens who gave permission to sample animal skeletal collections. Finally, we would like to thank multiple people from the University of York, James Nottingham (animal bone identification), Krista McGrath (ZooMS), Helen Goodchild (GIS) and especially Matthew von Tersch (mass spectrometry).


4301 Archaeology, 4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology, Prevention

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Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/L503848/1)
Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF128)