Sex differences in diet and life conditions in a rural Medieval Islamic population from Spain (La Torrecilla, Granada): An isotopic and osteological approach to gender differentiation in al-Andalus
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AuthorJiménez Brobeil, Sylvia Alejandra; Charisi, Drosia; Laffranchi, Zita; Maroto Benavides, Rosa María; Delgado Huertas, Antonio; Milella, Marco
Islamic SpainLong bone diaphyseal cross-sectional properties
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
SponsorshipProyecto HAR2016-75788-P del Ministerio de Ciencia y Competitividad del Gobierno de España
Objectives: Gender differentiation can influence the diet, physical activity, and health of human populations. Multifaceted approaches are therefore necessary when exploring the biological consequences of gender-related social norms in the past. Here, we explore the links between diet, physiological stress, physical activity, and gender differentiation in the Medieval Islamic population of La Torrecilla (Granada, Spain, 13th–15th century AD), by analyzing stable isotope patterns, stature, and long bone diaphyseal measurements. Materials and Methods: The sample includes 96 individuals (48 females, 48 males) classified as young and middle adults (20–34 and 35–50 years of age respectively). Diet was reconstructed through the analysis of δ13C and δ15N. Stature, humeral and femoral diaphyseal shape and product of diaphyseal diameters served as proxies of physiological stress and physical activity. Results: Isotopic ratios suggest a substantial dietary contribution of C4 plants (e.g., sorghum, millet), a variable access to animal proteins, and no differences between the sexes. Sexual dimorphism in stature derives from a markedly low female stature. Long bone diaphyseal properties suggest that men performed various physi cally stressful activities, whereas women were involved in less physically demanding activities (possibly related to household work). Discussion: Gender differentiation in La Torrecilla was expressed by a possibly differ ential parental investment in male versus female offspring and by culturally sanc tioned gender differences in the performance of physical tasks. Diet was qualitatively homogenous between the sexes, although we cannot rule out quantitative differ ences. Our results shed new light on the effects of gender-related social norms on human development and lifestyle.