Archaeology, Museums & Heritage – Seminar Series | Samantha Leggett – School of Humanities Archaeology, Museums & Heritage – Seminar Series | Samantha Leggett – School of Humanities

Archaeology, Museums & Heritage – Seminar Series | Samantha Leggett


Samantha Leggett | University of Cambridge

PhD Candidate at the University of Cambridge. Samantha will be presenting on Zoom, ‘Socio-environmental Transitions in Early Medieval Europe: An Isotopic Perspective’

Food, environment and identity are intrinsically linked. Food is a reflection of the environment, and when it is transformed into cuisine it also carries cultural memory and meaning within it. Therefore, isotopic signatures from biological tissues are an imprint of foodways and the environment. I have utilised multi-isotope (13C, 15N, 18O and 87/86Sr) and multi-tissue (bone, dentine and enamel) analyses to better understand the lifeways of people in Early Medieval England within a European context. The first millennium AD is a time of great change both in terms of social systems but also environmentally. Biomolecular archaeology is therefore uniquely placed to look at the interplay between environment and human agency. This paper looks at isotopic variability and cultural dynamism within Early Medieval communities to better characterise and disentangle human-environment interactions across the period.  


Isotopic signatures for both diet and mobility will be explored. I demonstrate the impact of climate change (the Late Antique Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period) as well as “brewing and stewing” on human 18O values. The significant diachronic changes in diet and mobility patterns found reflect the highly dynamic and far from insular position of England within Europe in the first millennium AD. My analyses support a model of continual and relatively large-scale migration from the continent Europe across the period, and changes to foodways which reflect not just shifts in economics and agricultural practice but changing worldviews (e.g. the impacts of Christianisation). Isotopic data when combined with archaeo-historical evidence show that identity construction in Early Medieval communities was highly complex, and there is no clear link between isotopic patterns, genetics and grave goods usually seen as “ethnic” signifiers. These were multi-origin communities in continual contact through long-distance networks who were highly adaptable in response to socio-environmental changes we see throughout the first millennium AD.



Friday 16 October 2020


Online on Zoom


For more information, to sign up to our mailing list or to offer a seminar please contact:

Agata Calabrese
Lorraine Leung
Kieran McGee
Simon Wyatt-Spratt
Sareeta Zaid


The Department of Archaeology is part of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).

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Oct 16 2020


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


This event is free





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