Ancient Egyptians primarily consumed food grown around the Nile River. Using carbon isotopes we confirmed that the individuals studied consumed the same type of C3 plants, although their environment tended to favor C4 plants. C3 and C4 describe different pathways of photosynthesis, i.e. the metabolism of the plants. This is an important parameter for archaeologists studying agricultural practices. We were also able to narrow down the type of diet, such as the amount of animal protein consumed. The most important sources of protein were large mammals such as cows, goats and sheep, and only rarely fish and poultry.
Up to around 50 % of the Ancient Egyptians' diet consisted of animal protein - lower than the average 64 % characterizing modern omnivorous Europeans. This is of interest to Egyptologists who want to understand the dietary habits of these populations. Of course, we must keep in mind that the samples we examined were from individuals of the Egyptian upper class. This means that they may not reflect the lifestyles of the average population. These people would probably have eaten a lot more fish in everyday life, but we don't have samples to test this hypothesis.