July 22, 2004

The Dining Habits of Friar Tuck and Friends

Last week, when I was busy doing other things, The Guardian published a neat little article that's summed up nicely by its headline: "Bones reveal chubby monks aplenty." A three-year study of skeletal remains at three medieval London monasteries showed that Friar Tuck wasn't the only overweight monk in British history:

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach and this seems specially to have been the case with monks," said Philippa Patrick, of the Institute of Archaeology, at University College, London. "They were taking in about 6,000 calories a day, and 4,500 even when they were fasting."

Arthritis in knees, hips and fingertips showed that the often under-employed monks were seriously obese.

Ms Patrick, whose findings were revealed to the International Medieval Congress, meeting in Leeds, said: "Their meals were full of saturated fats. They were five times more likely to suffer from obesity than their secular contemporaries, including wealthy merchants or courtiers."

The reckless scoffing was in clear breach of St Benedict's austere rules laid down probably in 530, which warned: "There must be no danger of overeating, so that no monk is overtaken by indigestion, for there is nothing so opposed to Christian life as overeating."

The article is a charming example of how social history and archaeology can go hand in hand, and it reminded me of my childhood desire to become an archaeologist. It's well worth a read!

Posted by Ed at July 22, 2004 05:25 PM


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Posted by: lolita at January 19, 2005 08:54 PM
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