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Tesi etd-02082020-094636

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Life conditions between Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in Tuscany (central Italy) through the analysis of skeletal and dental stress markers: a bioarchaeological approach
Settore scientifico disciplinare
Corso di studi
tutor Prof.ssa Giuffra, Valentina
Parole chiave
  • Europe
  • osteoarchaeology
  • paleodiet
  • transition
Data inizio appello
Data di rilascio
Riassunto analitico
This research presents the results of the first multidisciplinary bioarchaeological analysis aimed at a reconstruction of life conditions in ancient Tuscan communities (central Italy) between Late Antiquity (3rd-5th centuries AD) and the Middle Ages (mid 6th-mid 13th centuries AD). Major questions regarding the human health and nutrition in the Italian peninsula were addressed in order to investigate how the collapse of the Roman Empire impacted past societies, i.e. leading to a “Dark Age” or towards the definition of new socioeconomic solutions.
The goal of this study was to test different hypotheses concerning the effect of sociocultural and environmental factors on changes in demography, adult stature, periosteal reaction, linear enamel hypoplasia, cibra orbitalia, cribra cranii and stable isotope indicator of diet during the transitional period that followed the classical times in Central Italy.
Standardized methods of recording were employed to collect and compare data in the framework of a population-level analysis based on 390 individuals from one urban and two rural archaeological sites. A careful analysis of all the stress indicators was conducted on human skeletal remains, as they offer the most direct insight into the health and lifeways of ancient populations. The outcomes seemed to corroborate the environmental and archaeological evidence of sociopolitical modifications, changes in living conditions and different subsistence strategies, reflecting the complex nature of the interaction between rural and urban contexts during this long period bridging two historical epochs.
The final data were discussed through biosocial approach, with a deep focus on the sociopolitical, economic and environmental dimensions. This approach allowed to interpret the evidence for health and living conditions in past communities in terms of interaction and plasticity, and to evaluate how these aspects changed over time. The social determinants of stress markers and identity can vary greatly between regional areas and the only way to examine differences in life conditions across the Italian peninsula is through a more comprehensive, large-scale, integrated study of skeletal assemblages in a diachronic perspective. Central Italy, in particular, had sporadically been the object of a diachronic study conducted on extensive and integrative data for this complex transitional period.
The present research highlights the potential of bioarchaeological analysis for understanding lifestyles and dietary history in Italy between Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. More deeply, osteological and stable isotope results from ancient Tuscany revealed a sort of “diversification” rather than a dramatic decline or stagnation between the two epochs. Indeed, more in-depth understanding of social and cultural patterns was obtained through the application of scientific techniques proper to archaeological sciences such as stable isotope analysis, used as a proxy for investigating dietary behaviors in past Tuscan communities. The ultimate objective was to provide new data for further studies on stress markers in the Italian archaeological research, cautiously offering opportunities for comparisons with stress patterns, health and nutrition documented in other European sites.