“These boots were made for walking”: The isotopic analysis of a C4 Roman inhumation from Gravesend, Kent, UK
Pollard AM., Ditchfield P., McCullagh JSO., Allen TG., Gibson M., Boston C., Clough S., Marquez Grant N., Nicholson RA.
As part of the road widening scheme between London and Dover, Oxford Archaeology South uncovered a large boundary ditch of Iron Age origin that contained Iron Age and Roman inhumations, adjacent to which was a small mid-late Roman cemetery, interpreted as a rural cemetery for Romano-British farmers. Grave goods in the cemetery were restricted to a few individuals with hobnailed boots. Bulk bone collagen isotopic analysis of 11 skeletons of Iron Age and Roman date gave a typical C3 terrestrial signal (average δ13C = −19.8‰, δ15N = 9.3‰), but also revealed one (SK12671) with a diet which included a substantial C4 component (δ13C = −15.2‰, δ15N = 11.2‰). This is only the second such diet reported in Roman Britain. Subsequent δ18Oc and 87Sr/86Sr measurements on the dental enamel in this individual were, however, consistent with a “local” origin, indicating that either C4 protein was consumed in Late Roman Britain, or that he came from somewhere else, but where conditions gave rise to similar isotopic values. If we accept the latter, then it indicates that using oxygen and strontium isotopes alone to identify “incomers” may be problematic. The provision of hobnailed boots for the dead appears to have had a strong symbolic element in Late Roman Britain. We suggest that in this case the boots may be significant, in that he was being equipped for the long march home. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.