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Regional long-term analysis of dietary isotopes in Neolithic southeastern Italy: new patterns and research directions.
Isotopic analyses of prehistoric diet have only recently reached the threshold of going beyond site-focused reports to provide regional syntheses showing larger trends. In this work we present the first regional analysis for Neolithic southeastern Italy as a whole, including both substantial original data and a review of the available published data. The results show that dietary isotopes can shed new light on a number of traditional and important questions about Neolithic foodways. First, we observe regional variations in the distribution of stable isotope values across the area, suggesting variability in the Neolithic diet. Secondly, we show that, although the plant food calorific intake was primary for these communities, animal products were also important, representing on average 40% of the total calories. Third, we note that marine fish was only minorly consumed, but that this could be an underestimation, and we observe some variability in the regions considered, suggesting differences in local human–environment interactions. People in different regions of southeastern Italy may have consumed different versions of a common Neolithic diet. Regional synthesis also allows us to take stock of gaps and new directions in the field, suggesting an agenda for Neolithic isotopic research for the 2020s.
A Bayesian multi-proxy contribution to the socioeconomic, political, and cultural history of Late Medieval Capitanata (southern Italy).
Medieval southern Italy is typically viewed as a region where political, religious, and cultural systems coexisted and clashed. Written sources often focus on elites and give an image of a hierarchical feudal society supported by a farming economy. We undertook an interdisciplinary study combining historical and archaeological evidence with Bayesian modelling of multi-isotope data from human (n = 134) and faunal (n = 21) skeletal remains to inform on the socioeconomic organisation, cultural practices, and demographics of medieval communities in Capitanata (southern Italy). Isotopic results show significant dietary differences within local populations supportive of marked socioeconomic hierarchies. Bayesian dietary modelling suggested that cereal production, followed by animal management practices, was the economic basis of the region. However, minor consumption of marine fish, potentially associated with Christian practices, revealed intra-regional trade. At the site of Tertiveri, isotope-based clustering and Bayesian spatial modelling identified migrant individuals likely from the Alpine region plus one Muslim individual from the Mediterranean coastline. Our results align with the prevailing image of Medieval southern Italy but they also showcase how Bayesian methods and multi-isotope data can be used to directly inform on the history of local communities and of the legacy that these left.
Multi-isotope analysis of primary and secondary dentin as a mean to broaden intra-life dietary reconstruction.
A case from Longobard Italy.
This exploratory study proposes an original intra-life history investigation through sequential analysis of the isotopic composition of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur (CNS) on both primary and secondary dentin of a tooth (M1). We focus on an elderly woman from Longobard Italy (6th to 8th c. CE), who showed an unprecedented case of cranial surgery, presented in a companion paper by Micarelli and colleagues. Sequential stable CNS isotope composition of first molar dentin collagen allows us to infer diet, mobility, health, and physiological stress between approximately 3 months after birth to 9.5 years old (primary dentin) and between early adulthood until death (secondary dentin). Isotopic results on primary dentin highlight the following: (i) a long weaning period (ending at approximately 4 years), followed by (ii) a specific diet, including the contribution of C4 crops in early childhood (approximately 5.5 years), possibly concomitant with mobility. While secondary dentin shows a generally homogeneous diet during adulthood, the longitudinal analysis provided information on specific stresses that likely occurred in periods of difficult health conditions. This work emphasizes the importance of measuring complete dentin sequences (including secondary when present) for isotopic analysis to broaden intra-life histories in ancient populations.