Recent research has shown that the Bronze Age is a crucial period of dietary changes in Italy. Following this line of enquiry, the paper reports the results of stable isotope analysis (δ13C and δ15N) of faunal bone collagen as well as of collagen extracted from a few human bones dated to the Recent Bronze Age (13th/12th century BCE) and excavated at the coastal settlement of Punta di Zambrone (PdZ) in Calabria, southern Italy. They constitute the first such data on that period from the Italian south and can be used to determine an isotopic baseline of human food sources providing new insights on the diet of humans inhabiting Calabria. Overall, isotopic data of the faunal samples are fairly uniform, and there is no significant discrepancy to be observed between exclusively herbivorous animals (sheep/goats, bovine, and red deer) and those having a mixed diet, such as dogs and pigs. All the animals have similar δ15N values with only slightly higher values for dog (6.5‰ ± 1.1), and the average of δ15N for both domestic and wild animals fits well with published results for herbivorous mammals. Enriched δ13C values (range between −19.3‰ and −14.9‰) in most of the faunal samples suggest a terrestrial diet dominated by a mixing of C3 and C4 plants (e.g.. millet). The human diet also reflects an impact of C4 plants in accordance with the archaeobotanic remains. In an interregional comparison, PdZ stands out in this respect among the sites of the Italian south. Human remains from northern Italian sites suggest a much stronger intake of C4 plants than at PdZ.
Dental enamel hypoplasia, a deficit in enamel matrix formation, occurs in childhood and in utero as a result of survived nutritional deficiencies/diseases. Examination of hypoplastic lesions in ancient skeletal remains provides an excellent index of developmental stress levels in the past. In this research, linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) was detected to investigate the relation between social status, health, and nutritional conditions of the Romans during the Imperial Age. LEH was scored in 3,105 permanent teeth of 177 individuals found in two large necropolises in Rome (Italy), dating back to first to third centuries AD. Both sites are located near the ancient city centre, and the presence of different grave typologies, with monumental mausoleums and simple tombs, testifies the presence of stratified social classes. LEH was observed in the whole dentition. Statistically significant differences were found in all the parameters considered, mostly in anterior dentition. Frequencies of the teeth and of the individuals affected were higher in the lower than in the upper class, in both sexes and ages, whereas male/female or adult/subadult differences were not statistically significant. The mean number of events for individuals was also higher in the lower class. Chronological distribution of age at onset of the stressful events seems to be social status related. The study of two subsamples with different subsistence patterns in the same population allowed us to detect a relationship between LEH and social status in Imperial Rome, indicating that the socially advantaged group enjoyed better health in this past population.
This paper poses a question on the interpretation of caprine “kill‐off patterns” in some prehistoric sites of the Caput Adriae (northern Adriatic region, Mediterranean area). In particular, caprine kill‐off data from layers 2 (Late Neolithic‐Copper Age) and 2a (Middle Neolithic) of Grotta dell'Edera (Trieste Karst, north‐eastern Italy) are presented here and compared with those from two neighbouring sites. Distribution of age classes of domestic animals (in particular Caprinae) is generally discussed in terms of exploitation strategies adopted by past communities to obtain different products (e.g., milk, meat, and wool). Nevertheless, emphasis is rarely given to the possible meaning of the presence of foetal individuals and to their relation with neonatal ones. In this sense, it needs to be considered that causes of abortion (e.g., infections or ewe malnutrition) often can also lead to lamb mortality. The presence of a high proportion of neonatal (0–2 months old) and foetal sheep/goat individuals in the sites analysed raises an issue about the possible meaning of the mortality profiles: exploitation of dairy products or just premature death of ill individuals? This issue is important not only to better interpret subsistence strategies of past human communities but also to explore animal disease through time.
Today, brucellosis is the most common global bacterial zoonosis, bringing with it a range of significant health and economic consequences, yet it is rarely identified from the archaeological record. Detection and understanding of past zoonoses could be improved by triangulating evidence and proxies generated through different approaches. The complex socioecological systems that support zoonoses involve humans, animals, and pathogens interacting within specific environmental and cultural contexts, and as such, there is a diversity of potential datasets that can be targeted. To capture this, in this paper, we consider how to approach the study of zoonotic brucellosis in the past from a One Health perspective, one which explicitly acknowledges the health link between people, animals, and environments (both physical and cultural). One Health research is explicitly interdisciplinary and conceptually moves away from an anthropocentric approach, allowing the component parts to be considered in holistic and integrated ways to deliver more comprehensive understanding. To this end, in this paper, we review the methods, selected evidence, and potential for past brucellosis identification and understanding, focussing on osteological markers in humans and animals, historical, biomolecular, and epidemiological approaches. We also present an agenda and potential for future research.
Exploration of the weapon‐related traumas on human remains allows us to reconstruct the episodes of violence. This paper is an attempt of reconstructing the life and death of a female buried in the Early Armenian necropolis of Bover I (Shnogh, Lori Province) based on a multidisciplinary approach integrating archaeological, written, and palaeopathological data derived from the skeletal analysis. The remains unearthed in Tomb N 17 belonged to a woman who seemed to live as a professional warrior and was buried as an individual of rank. During our work, we identified a rich array of traumatic lesions, which shed light on her daily activities, occupation, and warfare practice. We also analysed a trapped metal arrowhead in her femur. For this region, projectile injury to bone, induced by an arrow wound, strongly suggests interpersonal aggression. The same individual also suffered blows to the pelvic bone, femur, and tibia. This tomb is the second burial discovered in Armenia that provides evidence on female warriors.
Dental examination of 21 individuals (11 females, nine males and one undetermined sex) exhumed from the rock‐cut tombs of Torre Velha 3 (Serpa, Portugal), dating from the 2nd millennium BC, revealed dental wear features and oral lesions that can be linked to non‐masticatory activities and/or dietary habits. A total of 471 teeth were macroscopically analyzed. One young‐adult female and a middle‐age adult of unknown sex display lingual surface attrition of the maxillary anterior teeth (LSAMAT). A middle‐age adult female has LSAMAT, anterior occlusal surface groove (AOSG) and chipping. Two other middle‐age adult females have oblique wear planes (OWP), one of them also with chipping. Overall variation and low frequencies of the observed alterations suggest that multiple activities and/or dietary habits could have caused these wear patterns. The hypothesis that atypical wear patterns are sex biased was tested using Fischer's exact test, and results were not statistically significant (p‐value = 0.09). Thus, it is possible to infer that these individuals had possible dietary or cultural idiosyncratic behaviors, besides repetitive non‐masticatory task related‐activities.
Working conditions in factories during the Industrial Era in Great Britain have been linked to numerous occupational diseases. In this paper, the authors present a case study from Victorian Gloucester, where skeletal remains of a young male recovered from the Southgate Street 3/89 excavation exhibit osteonecrosis on the left mandibular ramus, a condition known as “phossy jaw.” The case is examined in terms of macroscopic characteristics, distribution and severity of lesions, and differential diagnosis. The lesions consist of extensive bone necrosis with periosteal reaction and sub‐periosteal new bone formation that affects the left side of the mandible. Conditions that may have produced similar changes were considered and include various forms of neoplasms, actinomycosis, and taphonomic alterations. However, these are rejected as they are not supported by the lesion characteristics. Additional supportive evidence for the case of phosphorus necrosis is offered by the historical context: In the 19th century, Gloucester was one of the main centres for match manufacture, and it is well known that individuals who were directly exposed to phosphorus fumes developed a condition known as “phossy jaw.” The potential contribution of the current analysis in our understanding of working conditions in Victorian Gloucester is evaluated.
In 2009, an excavation carried out in Valle da Gafaria, Lagos, Portugal, allowed for the recovery of the skeletal remains of 158 individuals buried in a dump used during the 15th–17th centuries. The archaeological context of the findings, the presence of African items associated with the skeletons, the skulls' morphology, and the presence of intentionally modified teeth suggest that these individuals were African enslaved individuals. The aim of this work is to analyse how these men, women, and children were inhumed according to their sex and age (adults vs. non‐adults). Adults were mostly buried in supine position (54.3%). However, more women (27.3%) than men (9.5%) were inhumed in prone position. In non‐adults, the most common positions were the supine (36.2%) and the lateralis (38.8%). The foetal position was more commonly found in non‐adults (25.0%) than adults (4.3%, only women). Both adults (79.4%) and non‐adults (80.0%) were mostly buried with an orientation other than the typical Christian canonical practice at the time (head to west and feet to east). More non‐adult individuals (66.7%) appear to have been buried with care than adults (38.8%). Regarding both the orientation and the burial care, no differences were found between the sexes. Pieces of evidence of having been tied were found in four females, one male, and one non‐adult individual. All these results support the hypothesis that these individuals were discarded, bringing light to the way these African enslaved individuals were treated even at their death.
Meningiomas are the most common tumours of the central nervous system. However, few well‐accepted cases have been reported in the palaeopathological literature and usually only when hyperostosis co‐occurs. We present a hyperostotic cranial lesion in an adolescent from the early historic population of Tipu in west central Belize. It fits most clinical and epidemiological patterns of meningeal expression in modern children, and differential diagnosis finds other possible conditions, including dietary deficiencies and genetic anaemias, unlikely. The often subtle characteristics of meningiomas, which can be both osteolytic and osteoblastic, need to be described in detail to differentiate them from other conditions, especially porotic hyperostosis. The Tipu case is the only nonadult example to correspond with published clinical and palaeopathological cases of the tumour.