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Marcello Mannino

Agro-pastoral diets in southern Italy from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age

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The period from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age was a time of considerable socio-cultural and economic change, which affected human diets. To improve our understanding of dietary change in communities living in the south of Italy during this period, we have undertaken stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses on human bone collagen and AMS radiocarbon dating of individuals whose chronology needed to be verified. The skeletal remains investigated are from the regions of Calabria (Grotta della Monaca, Grotta di Donna Marsilia, Grotta dell’Antenato, Grotta di Sant’Angelo, Grotta du’ Scuru), Basilicata (Murgia Timone, Grotta Funeraria and Toppo d’Aguzzo) and Apulia (Ipogeo dei Bronzi). Carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses inform us mainly on the intake of dietary protein, although, in diets characterized by limited meat consumption, they also provide us with information on plant consumption. In particular, this method of palaeodietary reconstruction allows us to establish the ecosystem of origin of foods (terrestrial, freshwater and/or marine) and the type of diet (vegetarian, omnivorous or carnivorous). Our analyses on 33 human and 12 faunal bone collagen extracts attest that the diets of prehistoric southern Italians were mixed and based on the consumption of terrestrial resources, including generally moderate proportions of animal protein (e.g. meat and dairy products) and isotopically-detectable proportions of C3 plants (e.g. cereals and legumes).
Slight differences in the proportion of meat consumed may have been present, depending on regional environments, with individuals from Basilicata relying more on animal protein than those from Calabria and Apulia. Contrary to what has been shown for northern Italy, our data suggest that C4 plants (e.g. millet) were probably not consumed by Bronze Age people in the south of the Italian peninsula. By combining stable isotope analyses and bioarchaeological
investigations of diet-related dental patterns (wear, microwear, caries, calculus, chipping and hypoplasia of tooth enamel), we have gained insights into the dietary habits of southern Italian populations during the prehistoric period that saw an increase both in agriculture and pastoralism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventRadiocarbon and Diet - Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 20 Jun 201723 Jun 2017


ConferenceRadiocarbon and Diet
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  • Radiocarbon and Diet

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organisation af a conference

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