Poster session 5.3

Jack Dury and Oliver Craig (University of York)

Stable isotopes of processed fish products in Roman coastal environments

Garum and allec were edible products of fish ‘fermentation’ and used as condiments  in the cuisines of Ancient Greece, Rome, and Byzantium. Garum is the clear liquid which forms on the top the mass of ‘fermenting’ fish with the sediment beneath known allec. The archaeological evidence for the processing of fish in the Roman world is widespread and the consumption of these fermented products is evident at all levels of Roman society. However, when  reconstructing the Roman diets using stable isotopes fermented fish is rarely considered as separate dietary source; archeological studies have generally considered fish muscle to be an appropriate isotopic substitute for all fish products consumed by ancient Romans. δ15N and δ13C stable isotope measurements of modern garum and allec condiments, made to authentic Roman specifications, demonstrate that this presumption is false. For the purposes of dietary modeling and the interpretation of Roman bone collagen isotope signatures, these products may have to be considered separately and may have more dietary significance than previously thought.

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