Alessandra Varalli

Alessandra Varalli
University Pompeu Fabra | UPF · Department of Humanities (CaSEs research group)

PhD

About

30
Publications
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Introduction
I’m a physical anthropologist specialised in stable isotope analyses. My research interest focus on the reconstruction on past human behaviours and the interactions between humans and their environment exploring dietary patterns, subsistence strategies and agricultural practices in pre and protohistoric time. I analyse human, animal and plant remains through a multi-isotopic approach in order to have an insight in socio-economic and ecological changes through time in Europe and Asia

Publications

Publications (30)
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Agriculture has unquestionably been one of the human activities that has heavily shaped environments and landscapes worldwide from the last 10k years up to present day. More and more interdisciplinary research indicates how the understanding of socio-ecological dynamics of past farming systems over time is fundamental to predict environmental and s...
Article
The Arene Candide Cave is a renowned site on the northwestern Italian coast that has yielded numerous burials dating back to the terminal phases of the Pleistocene (Epigravettian culture). Thanks to the exceptional preservation of the remains, and to the information collected during the excavations that begun in the 1940s, researchers were able to...
Article
Full-text available
The archaeological Bronze Age record in Europe reveals unprecedented changes in subsistence strategies due to innovative farming techniques and new crop cultivation. Increasing cultural exchanges affected the economic system. The inhabitants of Switzerland played a pivotal role in this European context through relationships with the Mediterranean,...
Article
Full-text available
Using cross-sectional geometry (CSG), entheseal changes (ECs), and presence of external auditory meatus exostosis (EAE), this study tests the hypothesis—based on isotopic and zooarchaeological evidence—that in the Sicilian Mesolithic terrestrial rather than marine resources were predominantly exploited, in substantial continuity with previous Epigr...
Article
Full-text available
This study offers a combined analysis of longbone mechanical properties (cross-sectional geometry, CSG), upper-limb enthesopathies (entheseal changes, ECs), and external auditory exostoses (EAEs) among Neolithic people from Liguria (Italy). Previous CSG studies have suggested a high degree of mobility in mountainous terrain and sexual dimorphism in...
Article
Objective To reconstruct breastfeeding and weaning practices, metabolic stress including tuberculosis-induced wasting, and residential mobility of children in Neolithic and Metal Ages to infer their local ecologies. Materials Seven permanent teeth from individuals dated to the Neolithic, Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages buried in nearby caves in wes...
Article
Objective: This study evaluates patterns of human growth in the Neolithic to make inferences about environmental correlates of developmental disturbances. Materials: 33 children/adolescents from the Neolithic of Liguria (Italy), 29 of which date between 4,800-4,400 cal BCE. Methods: Neolithic patterns of growth are compared with a modern sampl...
Article
Objective: To assess developmental disturbances through the analysis of linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) frequency and to infer environmental stress and life history within Neolithic communities from Liguria (Italy). Materials: 43 unworn/minimally worn permanent anterior teeth of 13 individuals recovered from nearby caves and dated to c. 4800-4400...
Article
The multidisciplinary research team of this new project aimed at the chronological, anthropological and funerary behavior characterization of the skeletal remains unearthed from various caves in western Liguria (northwestern Italy) between the mid-1800s and the 1990s. Most of the burials and scattered bone assemblages were excavated prior to the de...
Presentation
Beginning in the mid-1800s, about 200 burials and an undefined number of scattered human remains have been reported from several caves and rock shelters in western Liguria. The skeletal series, excavated following the methodology of the time, were considered likely/probably/possibly “Neolithic” or “Middle Neolithic”, and as such were studied by ant...
Article
Full-text available
In recent years, the ever more frequent studies on the Bronze Age in northern Italy have shown the importance of this area for cultural and economic exchanges between central and southern Europe. The aim of the present multidisciplinary study was to define the health, behaviour and dietary habits in an Early-Middle Bronze Age skeletal sample from t...
Article
Evidence of Neolithic occupation at Arma dell'Aquila (Finale Ligure, Italy) had been unearthed in the 1930s, with the discovery of nine burials and a number of scattered human remains. The material, however, had never been systematically studied and characterized chronologically until recently. We performed a complete re-assessment of funerary beha...
Presentation
La transition vers le mode de vie néolithique (économie basée sur la domestication des plantes et animaux) a impacté en manière significative l’état sanitaire, l'alimentation, et l'activité humaine. Les nouvelles stratégies de subsistance ont permis l’introduction d’aliments de sevrage qui ont réduit la durée de l'allaitement et limité les interval...
Poster
Full-text available
The Copper Age in Liguria show the affirmation of the transhumant pastoralism towards the summer pasture of the upland. The collective burials in caves suggest a social organisation with a kinship structure. The possibility to move and to assemble alimentary resources in specific locations, also in rough ones, sustain the emerge of early and consis...
Conference Paper
The aim of this study is to define the subsistence strategies and dietary habits of the Early-Middle Bronze Age population of Ballabio (3230 ± 90 BP). This archaeological site, excavated in a rock shelter at 700 m a.s.l., was discovered in 2004 during a geological survey. Skeletal remains were found in two adjacent funerary structures, interpreted...
Article
Full-text available
This research aims at delineating the dietary practices in Central Italy during the Bronze Age. The study of food choices is a mean for investigating palaeoenvironmental agricultural and economic activities and social relationships, which have been little explored until now in Italy from this specific perspective. A previous study conducted by Tafu...

Projects

Projects (4)
Project
The management of water has always marked a key turning point in the cultural trajectory of each region of the world. Cross-cultural studies emphasize the astonishing variety of methods of water management both in the past and in the present. In recent years it became more and more evident that some of the most complex water management systems concern reservoir management rather than irrigation. Rain-fed cultivation -when water is provided by rainfall alone- has received little attention as it is often considered a secondary practice with a minor role in human livelihood. Lancelotti et al., (2019) argues that rain-fed cultivation might play a so-far unrecognised role in the development of food production in arid areas, even where rainfall is normally considered too scarce for crop cultivation. With my research I aim to highlight the importance of C4 cereals, which are well adapted to extreme arid climate, by replicating rain-fed cultivations in a controlled environment. Only preliminary studies have been dedicated to traditional C4 cereals which represent the most important staple food crops in arid lands. Specifically for my PhD project I am using modern samples of traditional drought-adapted landraces, grown in a designed experimental field, to test how the following data respond to different water regimes: (1) the carbon isotopic discrimination values (Δ) and isotopic ratio (∂13C) of grains; (2) phytolith production (concentration per gram of dry plant material) and ratios between environmentally and genetically controlled morphotypes; and (3) values of ∂30Si in phytoliths. The idea is rapidly to identify the different water regimes from botanical samples with a minor cost and in alternative to the classic genetic assessment and to connect archaeology with crop physiology studies on modern samples deepening our knowledge on the evolution of past land use and agriculture in arid environments.
Project
The proposed research aims to improve our understanding of food habits, farming practices and the mobility trends of human groups during the Metal Ages focusing on the Liguria, in Northern Italy. This region, for its geographical position and archaeological background, is a key-area to understand human behaviour in the Mediterranean area, the socio-economic systems as well as the resources management considering the beginning of the development of a productive economy. Biochemical researches, through the application of stable isotope analyses on human, animal and botanical remains will contribute to understand: 1) exchanges among different populations and economic strategies along the metal ages; 2) society subsistence choices; 3) migrations; 4) new cereals introduction (millet).
Project
During the Bronze Age, crucial processes of social and cultural development for European societies took place. The investigation of dietary patterns and subsistence practices represents an exceptional approach to explore late-prehistoric community behaviours as several aspects are still unexplored. Therefore, the aim of my project is to investigate the food habits and mobility trends of a pivotal European zone, the Switzerland (Vaud and Valais cantons). Research in this region allows to understand the diffusion of new agricultural practices from Central to Southern Europe, the socio-economic systems as well as the resources management in a critical moment of change. Stable isotopes analyses from human, faunal and botanical remains are applied. Focus of the project is to understand: 1) exchanges among different populations and economic strategies along the Bronze Age; 2) society subsistence choices; 3) migrations; 4) new cereals introduction (millet).