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Cosmopolitan Catterick : isotopic evidence for population mobility on Rome’s northern frontier

By Carolyn Chenery, Hella Eckardt and Gundala Muldner


In order to investigate how the population diversity at major Romano-British urban centres compared to small towns and military outposts, we conducted multi-isotope (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and strontium) analyses of bones (42 individuals) and teeth (26 individuals) of human skeletons from Cataractonium/Roman Catterick in North Yorkshire (U.K.). The results suggest a markedly less diverse population at Catterick than at the larger towns. Significant differences are observed between burials from the town and fort area and the suburb of Bainesse to the south, and it is suggested that these reflect a shift to more localised recruitment for the Roman army in the Late Roman period. Isotope data for the ‘Bainesse Eunuch’, an unusual 4th century burial that has been interpreted as the remains of a ‘transvestite’ priest of Cybele, are not ultimately conclusive but consistent with origins in Southern Britain or areas with a similar climate abroad.\ud \ud This paper also presents strontium isotope data for modern vegetation samples from 17 sites in the Catterick/northern Vale of York area which contribute to a continuing effort to map the biosphere 87Sr/86Sr variation in Britain.\ud \u

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jas.2011.02.018
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