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Early Byzantine fish consumption and trade revealed by archaeoichthyology and isotopic analysis at Sagalassos, Turkey

Authors
  • Van Neer, W; 14803;
  • Fuller, BT;
  • Fahy, GE;
  • De Cupere, B;
  • Bouillon, Steven; 58392;
  • Uytterhoeven, I;
  • Richards, MP;
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2024
Source
Lirias
Keywords
License
Unknown
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Abstract

We document the dietary and economic role of fish at Sagalassos, a town in ancient Pisidia (southwest Turkey) for the Early Byzantine period (c. 550 – 700 CE) through a detailed analysis of animal bones and stable isotopes. The role of fish in the diet is quantified, for the first time, based on large samples of sieved remains retrieved during the excavation of a number of spaces in an urban residence. The table and kitchen refuse from the mansion shows that fish was a regular part of the diet. However, past isotopic work focused on human individuals excavated in the city’s necropolises, slightly postdating the faunal remains examined, did not reflect this consumption of aquatic food. The studied assemblage comprises at least 12 different fish taxa, including five marine species, a Nilotic fish and six Anatolian freshwater species. Since the origin of the freshwater fishes could not be unambiguously determined by zoogeography alone, we analyzed carbon, nitrogen and sulphur stable isotope ratios in archaeological fish bones from Sagalassos as well as in bones of modern fish collected at different sites in Turkey. We show that most freshwater fish, i.e., all cyprinid species, came from Lake Eğirdir. No evidence was found for fish from the local Aksu River basin. The exact origin of pike, which account for 3% of all freshwater fish, could not be directly determined due to a shortage of modern comparative data. Using the data obtained on the provenance of the fish, the ancient trade routes possibly used in the Early Byzantine period are reconstructed using a combination of archaeological, numismatic and historical data on past commercial relations. / We document the dietary and economic role of fish at Sagalassos, a town in ancient Pisidia (southwest Turkey) for the Early Byzantine period (c. 550 – 700 CE) through a detailed analysis of animal bones and stable isotopes. The role of fish in the diet is quantified, for the first time, based on large samples of sieved remains retrieved during the excavation of a number of spaces in an urban residence. The table and kitchen refuse from the mansion shows that fish was a regular part of the diet. However, past isotopic work focused on human individuals excavated in the city’s necropolises, slightly postdating the faunal remains examined, did not reflect this consumption of aquatic food. The studied assemblage comprises at least 12 different fish taxa, including five marine species, a Nilotic fish and six Anatolian freshwater species. Since the origin of the freshwater fishes could not be unambiguously determined by zoogeography alone, we analyzed carbon, nitrogen and sulphur stable isotope ratios in archaeological fish bones from Sagalassos as well as in bones of modern fish collected at different sites in Turkey. We show that most freshwater fish, i.e., all cyprinid species, came from Lake Eğirdir. No evidence was found for fish from the local Aksu River basin. The exact origin of pike, which account for 3% of all freshwater fish, could not be directly determined due to a shortage of modern comparative data. Using the data obtained on the provenance of the fish, the ancient trade routes possibly used in the Early Byzantine period are reconstructed using a combination of archaeological, numismatic and historical data on past commercial relations. / status: published

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