The project TRANSCULTURAL ambitions to conduct a comprehensive transdisciplinary approach for understanding the socio-economic organisation of Muslim and Christian populations in Medieval Portugal, via the investigation of their diet and mobility.
The key for the achievement of the research objectives lies in the expertise of the research team (and consultants), almost equally composed of researchers in Humanities (3 historians, 3 archaeologists, 2 consultants) and in Natural Sciences (2 anthropologists, 1 anthropo-biogeochemist -PI-, 3 chemists, 1 geologist, 1 zooarchaeologist). Together, the team has selected 7 medieval necropolises from Center and South of Portugal, considered as of special interest regarding the necropolises' time span of usage, the constraint archaeological framework, as well as the presence of different groups and dichotomies, i.e., Christians versus Muslims, warriors versus natural population, high versus low social status, males versus females.
Diet and mobility will be studied using the biogeochemical composition of human skeletons buried in the selected cemeteries. Dietary habits and mobility patterns are archived in the skeleton during the individuals' life through the ingestion of dietary components whose specific chemical composition depends on their nature and location. Five isotopic systems will be used: carbon, nitrogen and sulphur, as well as oxygen and strontium isotopes, which will provide information on the type of plant ingested (δ13C), the trophic level of consumers (δ 15N), the consumption of marine (δ 15N, δ 34S) or freshwater (δ 34S) food resources, the geographic locality (δ 18O) and the geological substrate on which the population lived (87Sr/86Sr).
Since food preferences are based on both ideology and availability, if we know the environmental resources available to these past populations, it will be possible, by studying their diet practices (i.e., what they chose to eat and what they avoided), to understand the ideology behind the cultural behaviours. Dietary habits are often ruled by socio-economic factors such as age, social status and beliefs. Besides, information from mobility studies will provide a picture of the relationships between past individuals, in terms of contacts, trade, marriage patterns and acculturation.
Results from anthropo-biogeochemical analyses will be compared to historical sources and used for ultimately decoding the cultural identity of the studied populations and exploring their inter-cultural contact, with a transdisciplinary vision. Questions addressed in this project are fundamental, especially nowadays, when major societal transformations are happening within a socio-economic globalization context, where religion, identities and borders constitute foremost political issues.