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Radiocarbon Chronology and Paleodiet Studies on the Medieval Rural Site of Zaballa (Spain): Preliminary Insights into the Social Archaeology of the Site

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2016

C Lubritto*
Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies (DiSTABiF), Second University of Naples, Italy Centre for Isotopic Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage (CIRCE) – INNOVA, Italy
C Sirignano
Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies (DiSTABiF), Second University of Naples, Italy Centre for Isotopic Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage (CIRCE) – INNOVA, Italy
P Ricci
Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies (DiSTABiF), Second University of Naples, Italy Centre for Isotopic Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage (CIRCE) – INNOVA, Italy
I Passariello
Centre for Isotopic Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage (CIRCE) – INNOVA, Italy
J A Quiros Castillo
Research Group in Heritage and Cultural Landscapes, University of the Basque Country UPV-EHU, Spain
3Corresponding author. Email:


The archaeological site of Zaballa is a Medieval rural site located in the province of álava (Basque Country, northern Iberia). The site has been excavated during a rescue archaeology project, over an area of about 4.5 ha, where human occupation has been documented ranging from the 6th to 15th century. The archaeological operations have shown the transformation of the village, in diachronic terms, by unearthing the structure of production areas (agricultural lands, storage areas, and craft activities), the shape of domestic spaces, and the Saint Tirso monastery, with its adjacent cemetery. Much of the evidence and features related to a peasant community are small and disturbed by recent agricultural activities, and are therefore difficult to be interpreted in social terms. Studying dietary patterns has helped to fill this gap by providing a protein-rich diet of the elitist population and by highlighting the existence of hierarchies separating the inhabitants of Zaballa. In this paper, we discuss the reconstruction of the chronological sequence of the site inhabitation, with a multidisciplinary approach. The archaeological evidences and the critical use of radiocarbon dating have been integrated with stable isotope analysis on human remains found in the cemetery of the church of San Tirso, resulting in a first attempt to find evidence of the social structure of the rural community of Zaballa.

Archaeology of Eurasia and Africa
Copyright © 2013 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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