Diet in ancient Ephesos: Isotope analyses of humans and animals

Since 2015 as part of the necropolis research isotope analyses have been carried out in order to understand dietary habits of the Ephesian population.

The study of the dietary habits of the Ephesian population is a research focus of the anthropological and archaeozoological research conducted at the Department of Bioarchaeology at the OeAI.


In order to more closely analyze the dietary habits of the Ephesians in the historic period from a complementary perspective, nearly 300 samples of human bones from burials of the Archaic period to the late Middle Ages were extracted in 2014. The aim is to receive a representative cross-section of the Ephesian population.


Within the framework of a cooperation project with M. Richards (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and J. Montgomery (Durham University, UK) proteins are currently being extracted in order to then determine the proportion of stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotopes. As a result, a general understanding will be gained informing about the proportion of animal, plant, as well as marine and terrestrial components in the food supply of the Ephesian population. In addition to the samples from human bones, samples of animal bones were taken at the same time so that a holistic picture of the eating habits can be reconstructed. Whenever the analysis results show individual variances or outliers from the clusters, additional mitochondrial DNA analyses or analyses of the nucleus of these individuals are carried out. In connection with strontium isotope analyses it will be clarified whether the different food habits of specific individuals is the result of a foreign origin.