Peter Garnsey

University of Rome Tor Vergata, Roma, Latium, Italy

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Publications (4)9.92 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The reconstruction of dietary patterns in the two Roman imperial age coastal communities of Portus and Velia (I-III AD) by means of stable isotope analysis of bone remains has exposed a certain degree of heterogeneity between and within the two samples. Results do not correlate with any discernible mortuary practices at either site, which might have pointed to differential social status. The present study tests the hypothesis of a possible connection between dietary habits and occupational activities in the two communities. Among skeletal markers of occupation, external auricular exostosis (EAE) has proved to be very informative. Clinical and retrospective epidemiological surveys have revealed a strong positive correlation between EAE development and habitual exposure to cold water. In this study, we show that there is a high rate of occurrence of EAE among adult males in both skeletal samples (21.1% in Portus and 35.3% in Velia). Further, there is a statistically significant higher prevalence of EAE among those individuals at Velia with very high nitrogen isotopic values. This points to fishing (coastal, low-water fishing) as the sea-related occupation most responsible for the onset of the ear pathology. For Portus, where the consumption of foods from sea and river seems to be more widespread through the population, and where the scenario of seaport and fluvial activities was much more complex than in Velia, a close correlation between EAE and fish consumption by fishermen is less easy to establish.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 12/2009; 142(3):355-66. · 2.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Here we report on a stable isotope palaeodietary study of a Imperial Roman population interred near the port of Velia in Southern Italy during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses were performed on collagen extracted from 117 adult humans as well as a range of fauna to reconstruct individual dietary histories. For the majority of individuals, we found that stable isotope data were consistent with a diet high in cereals, with relatively modest contributions of meat and only minor contributions of marine fish. However, substantial isotopic variation was found within the population, indicating that diets were not uniform. We suggest that a number of individuals, mainly but not exclusively males, had greater access to marine resources, especially high trophic level fish. However, the observed dietary variation did not correlate with burial type, number of grave goods, nor age at death. Also, individuals buried at the necropolis at Velia ate much less fish overall compared with the contemporaneous population from the necropolis of Portus at Isola Sacra, located on the coast close to Rome. Marine and riverine transport and commerce dominated the economy of Portus, and its people were in a position to supplement their own stocks of fish with imported goods in transit to Rome, whereas at Velia marine exploitation existed side-by-side with land-based economic activities.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 04/2009; 139(4):572-83. · 2.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study integrates isotopic, palaeopathological, and historical evidence to investigate infant and young child feeding practices in a Roman period (1st to 3rd centuries AD) skeletal sample from the Isola Sacra necropolis (Rome, Italy). Stable isotope analysis of bone collagen from 37 rib samples indicates that transitional feeding began by the end of the first year and weaning occurred by 2-2.5 years of age. Both delta(15)N and delta(13)C data clearly show the trophic level effect associated with breastfeeding. Childhood diet is investigated using dental pathology data in the deciduous dentitions of 78 individuals aged between 1 and 12 years. The presence of calculus, caries, and tooth wear in young children suggests that individuals were provided complementary foods and other items that impacted their dental health at an early age. The isotopic and dental data are generally consistent with the historical evidence from the Roman period with respect to the general timetable of weaning and the character of complementary foods. This is the first study to integrate isotopic and deciduous dental pathology data to explore infant and young child feeding practices in the Roman world.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 08/2008; 137(3):294-308. · 2.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Oxygen stable isotope ratios (delta(18)O) have been determined in carbonate in paired first and third molar teeth from individuals (N = 61) who lived in the town of Portus Romae ("Portus") and who were buried in the necropolis of Isola Sacra (First to Third centuries AD) near Rome, Italy. We compare these analyses with data for deciduous teeth of modern Roman children. Approximately one-third of the archaeological sample has first molar (M1) values outside the modern range, implying a large rate of population turnover at that time, consistent with historical data. Delta (18)O(ap) values suggest that a group within the sample migrated to the area before the third molar (M3) crown had completely formed (i.e., between 10 and 17.5 years of age). This is the first quantitative assessment of population mobility in Classical antiquity. This study demonstrates that migration was not limited to predominantly single adult males, as suggested by historical sources, but rather a complex phenomenon involving families. We hypothesize that migrants most likely came from higher elevations to the East and North of Rome. One individual with a higher delta(18)O value may have come (as a child) from an area isotopically similar to North Africa.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 05/2007; 132(4):510-9. · 2.48 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

90 Citations
9.92 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2009
    • University of Rome Tor Vergata
      Roma, Latium, Italy
    • University of Western Australia
      Perth City, Western Australia, Australia
  • 2007–2008
    • Southern Illinois University Carbondale
      • Department of Anthropology
      Carbondale, IL, United States