A Modest Diet

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Meat consumption was not very common in medieval England, regardless of what many historical records say, the BBC reported.

Cambridge University researchers recently studied the bones of more than 2,000 skeletons belonging to people from different walks of society from the fifth to the 11th centuries.

In their study, scientists analyzed the chemical signatures of the remains and found little evidence that these individuals ate animal proteins on a regular basis.

When they cross-referenced the findings with indicators of social status – such as grave goods and body positions – they saw no connection between social class and high-protein diets.

“The isotopic evidence suggests that diets in this period were much more similar across social groups than we’ve been led to believe,” said lead author Sam Leggett.

Legget and her colleague Tom Lambert suggested that many people then, including royals and elites, mainly consumed “bread with small quantities of meat and cheese, or (ate) pottages of leeks and whole grains with a little meat thrown in.”

The findings contradict previous assumptions and medieval texts that Anglo-Saxon royals gorged on large quantities of meat.

Instead, the team posits that those texts refer to the occasional large feasts rulers and their subjects would hold.

Researchers added in a separate study that it was also not uncommon for peasants themselves to hold these feasts in honor of their rulers.

“That means that a lot of ordinary farmers must have been there, and this has big political implications,” noted Lambert. “We’re looking at kings traveling to massive barbecues hosted by free peasants, people who owned their own farms and sometimes slaves to work on them…This was a crucial form of political engagement.”

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