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Stable isotope and mtDNA evidence for geographic origins at the site of Vagnari, South Italy

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... The historical sources focused on their audience of literate, privileged, male, and dominant patriarchs of Rome while marginalizing other members of Roman society, such as women, children, and lower class individuals living in rural areas (Bradley, 1994;Crawford, 2001;Paoli, 1973;Williams, 1997). More recent investigations have concentrated on integrating several lines of aDNA, historic, bioarchaeological, and isotopic data from a broad spectrum of Roman society to inform their interpretations about past mobility and the prevalence of disease (e.g., Killgrove and Montgomery, 2016;Marciniak et al., 2016;Prowse et al., 2010). Although research has focused on how Roman subjugation of the indigenous Italic and Greek colonial populations impacted the demographic composition of Roman Italy, little is known about the biological composition of populations in southern Italy as a result of these military and political conquests. ...
... Preliminary mtDNA data generated by Prowse et al. (2010) targeting the HVR-1 (hypervariable region) region of the mitochondrial genome, assessed the partial mitochondrial profiles of 10 Vagnari individuals, and identified haplogroups typical of Eurasian populations (haplogroups H, J, K, and T). Two individuals belonged to haplogroups characteristic of African (L) and eastern Eurasia (D) maternal ancestry. ...
... Italian meteoric δ 18 O variation generally follows an East-West gradient, with heavier δ 18 O values (> −6‰) recorded along the Italy's coastlines, progressing to lighter values (< −9‰) towards the interior (Giustini et al., 2016;Longinelli and Selmo, 2003). Previous δ 18 O analyses conducted on a subset of the Vagnari assemblage determined that the majority of the occupants buried in the necropolis were born at Vagnari (> 90%), falling within the local δ 18 O range (−8‰ to −6‰) of the southern Italian region Prowse et al., 2010). More recent δ 18 O and 87 Sr/ 86 Sr analysis by Emery et al. (2018) obtained from a larger portion of the Vagnari assemblage, together with new 87 Sr/ 86 Sr baseline information for the Italian peninsula, found that over half of the Vagnari occupants (58%) were local to the site, and a further 34% were identified as originating from southern Italy. ...
Article
Rome initiated several campaigns to expand, conquer, and enslave local Italic populations following the establishment of the republic in 504 BCE. However, the cultural and biological changes resulting from Roman subjugation across Italy remain a topic of intense historical debate. Although important, historic and archaeological lines of evidence fail to track the impact of forced enslavement and enculturation at individual and broader genetic scales and, more generally, offer fewer clues regarding the potential affinities of Roman period Italians to European, Near Eastern, western Asian and North African populations at this time. In this paper, we present the whole mitochondrial (mtDNA) genomes of 30 Roman period (1st–4th centuries CE) individuals buried in the Vagnari necropolis in southern Italy. We integrate the mtDNA data with previously published bioarchaeological and isotope (δ18O and 87Sr/86Sr) data for the Vagnari assemblage and compare Roman haplogroup composition to 15 newly sequenced mitochondrial genomes obtained from a pre-Roman Iron Age skeletal assemblage, located in close proximity to Vagnari. Additionally, we contrast our South Italian dataset with a further 332 complete ancient mtDNA genomes from the pan-Mediterranean region, Europe, western Asia and North African regions. Population pairwise ΦST values suggest that Roman Italians share closer genetic similarity to Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Armenian Iron Age populations from western and central Europe than with Iron Age Italians, Ptolemaic, and Roman period Egyptians. Vagnari individuals with δ18O, 87Sr/86Sr, and mtDNA data suggest a predominantly local demographic was employed at the site. However, two individuals belong to eastern Eurasian haplogroup D4b1c, indicating that the maternal ancestors of these two individuals migrated to South Italy prior to the 1st century CE. Additionally, we provide the first genetic evidence for possible maternal relatedness in a Roman period skeletal assemblage. Our research highlights the significance of integrating multiple lines of bioarchaeological data to inform interpretations about Roman colonial expansion and its impact on population structure.
... Vagnari extends over 3.5 ha within in the Basentello valley near Gravina in Puglia, Bari (over 400 km from Rome), surrounded by plateaus of land (the Murgia) that are ideal for animal husbandry and transhumance (Small, 2011(Small, , 2014. The site was likely connected to Rome along the Via Appia, one of numerous ancient roads connecting Rome to the coastlines of Italy, and is characterized as a rural village participating in industrial processing activities as indicated by archaeological evidence of tile kilns, iron-working, as well as agricultural production (e.g., cereal crops, viticulture) (Prowse et al., 2010;Small, 2011Small, , 2014. In antiquity, trees surrounded the area and water was supplied by numerous natural springs that characterized the landscape, alongside the Silvium aqueduct (Parise et al., 2000;Small, 2011). ...
... In antiquity, trees surrounded the area and water was supplied by numerous natural springs that characterized the landscape, alongside the Silvium aqueduct (Parise et al., 2000;Small, 2011). In terms of Vagnari's connection to the Empire at large, the site likely consisted of slaves, freedmen, and/or free tenants contributing to the activities of an Imperial estate, land that was owned by the Emperor or his designate (Prowse et al., 2010). The cemetery at Vagnari is located on the southern part of the site, away from the main habitation area, and the approximately 125 burials excavated mainly date between the 1st to 4th centuries CE (Prowse et al., 2010;Small, 2011Small, , 2014. ...
... In terms of Vagnari's connection to the Empire at large, the site likely consisted of slaves, freedmen, and/or free tenants contributing to the activities of an Imperial estate, land that was owned by the Emperor or his designate (Prowse et al., 2010). The cemetery at Vagnari is located on the southern part of the site, away from the main habitation area, and the approximately 125 burials excavated mainly date between the 1st to 4th centuries CE (Prowse et al., 2010;Small, 2011Small, , 2014. ...
Article
Plasmodium falciparum is a significant human pathogen, particularly in the historical context of the ancient Mediterranean region. The causative species of malaria are “invisible” in the historical record, while malaria as a disease entity is indirectly supported by evidence from literary works (e.g., the Hippocratic Corpus, Celsus’ De Medicina) and non-specific skeletal pathological responses. Although ancient DNA may demonstrate the presence of a pathogen, there remain theoretical and methodological challenges in contextualizing such molecular evidence. Here we present a framework to explore the biosocial context of malaria in 1st–4th c. CE central-southern Italy using genomic, literary, epidemiological, and archaeological evidence to highlight relationships between the Plasmodium parasite, human hosts, Anopheles vector, and environment. By systematically integrating these evidentiary sources, our approach highlights the importance of disease ecology (e.g., climate and landscape) and human-environment interactions (e.g., land use patterns, such as agriculture or infrastructure activities) that differentially impact the potential scope of malaria in the past.
... The historical sources focused on their audience of literate, privileged, male, and dominant patriarchs of Rome while marginalizing other members of Roman society, such as women, children, and lower class individuals living in rural areas (Bradley, 1994;Crawford, 2001;Paoli, 1973;Williams, 1997). More recent investigations have concentrated on integrating several lines of aDNA, historic, bioarchaeological, and isotopic data from a broad spectrum of Roman society to inform their interpretations about past mobility and the prevalence of disease (e.g., Killgrove and Montgomery, 2016;Marciniak et al., 2016;Prowse et al., 2010). Although research has focused on how Roman subjugation of the indigenous Italic and Greek colonial populations impacted the demographic composition of Roman Italy, little is known about the biological composition of populations in southern Italy as a result of these military and political conquests. ...
... Preliminary mtDNA data generated by Prowse et al. (2010) targeting the HVR-1 (hypervariable region) region of the mitochondrial genome, assessed the partial mitochondrial profiles of 10 Vagnari individuals, and identified haplogroups typical of Eurasian populations (haplogroups H, J, K, and T). Two individuals belonged to haplogroups characteristic of African (L) and eastern Eurasia (D) maternal ancestry. ...
... Italian meteoric δ 18 O variation generally follows an East-West gradient, with heavier δ 18 O values (> −6‰) recorded along the Italy's coastlines, progressing to lighter values (< −9‰) towards the interior (Giustini et al., 2016;Longinelli and Selmo, 2003). Previous δ 18 O analyses conducted on a subset of the Vagnari assemblage determined that the majority of the occupants buried in the necropolis were born at Vagnari (> 90%), falling within the local δ 18 O range (−8‰ to −6‰) of the southern Italian region Prowse et al., 2010). More recent δ 18 O and 87 Sr/ 86 Sr analysis by Emery et al. (2018) obtained from a larger portion of the Vagnari assemblage, together with new 87 Sr/ 86 Sr baseline information for the Italian peninsula, found that over half of the Vagnari occupants (58%) were local to the site, and a further 34% were identified as originating from southern Italy. ...
... Although rare among modern Europeans, Prowse et. al. found that one out of ten individuals from this same time period (2nd-4th century CE) in Vagnari (southern Italy) had the D mitochondrial haplogroup (65). ...
... Nevertheless, Prowse et. al. showed that 1 out of 10 individuals at Vagnari in southern Italy had an L haplogroup (65). ...
Article
Ancient Rome was the capital of an empire of ~70 million inhabitants, but little is known about the genetics of ancient Romans. Here we present 127 genomes from 29 archaeological sites in and around Rome, spanning the past 12,000 years. We observe two major prehistoric ancestry transitions: one with the introduction of farming and another prior to the Iron Age. By the founding of Rome, the genetic composition of the region approximated that of modern Mediterranean populations. During the Imperial period, Rome’s population received net immigration from the Near East, followed by an increase in genetic contributions from Europe. These ancestry shifts mirrored the geopolitical affiliations of Rome and were accompanied by marked interindividual diversity, reflecting gene flow from across the Mediterranean, Europe, and North Africa.
... The widespread control exercised by the Roman Empire facilitated high levels of mobility through the establishment of peaceful conditions and dense road networks throughout newly acquired areas (de Ligt and Tacoma, 2016;Tacoma, 2016). The resulting migratory and social processes have long been a major topic of Roman studies, as demonstrated by the large array of studies focusing on the archaeological and biochemical signatures of cultural contact and migration which took place in Western Europe and the Near East between the last centuries BCE-first centuries CE (de Ligt and Tacoma, 2016;Eckardt, 2010;Eckardt et al., 2009Eckardt et al., , 2010Eckardt et al., , 2014Eckardt et al., , 2015Evans et al., 2006;Killgrove, 2010aKillgrove, , 2010bKillgrove and Montgomery, 2016;Noy, 2000Noy, , 2010Prowse et al., 2007Prowse et al., , 2010Stark, 2017;Tacoma, 2016). Quantitative studies of migratory patterns during the Roman Empire have been calculated using mainly two types of data: historical records including census and epigraphic data, and stable isotope ratios, largely represented by studies focusing on 87 Sr/ 86 Sr and δ 18 O. ...
... The abundance of data have subsequently stimulated a number of multidisciplinary research projects focusing on various aspects of mobility during the Roman Empire, with a wide range of contexts including Britain, Italy, and Germany (e.g. Eckardt et al., 2010Eckardt et al., , 2014Emery et al., 2018a;Emery et al., 2018b;Killgrove, 2010b;Killgrove and Montgomery, 2016;Prowse et al., 2010;Schweissing and Grupe, 2003;Stark, 2017). ...
Article
The study of migration within the Roman Empire has been a focus of the bioarchaeological and biogeochemical research during the last decade. The possible association of diet and sex, age, and funerary treatment during the 1st-4th centuries CE have been extensively explored in Britain, and Central-Southern Italy. Conversely, no knowledge is available about these processes for the North of the Italian Peninsula. In the present work we analyse a set (N = 16) of Roman inhumations from Bologna (Northern Italy, 1st-4th century CE), some of which are characterized by unusual features (prone depositions, transfixion of the skeleton by iron nails). Analysis of strontium, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon isotopes is used to test for the possible correlation between funerary treatment, geographic origin, and diet. Here we provide the first biogeochemical data for a Northern Italian Imperial sample, wherein our results show no clear association between these variables, suggesting that funerary variability, at least in the analysed context, was shaped by a variety of heterogeneous factors, and not a representation of vertical social differences or differential geographic origins.
... The people with Asian ancestry are the first to be reported from Roman Britain however, this is cautiously asserted because the method we applied is based on more recent populations, and we recognise that morphology is subject to temporal and spatial variation. To the best of our knowledge, the only other individual from the Roman Empire identified as having Asian ancestry, is an adult male buried at the Imperial estate of Vagnari (Italy) who was not local to the area and whose mtDNA revealed east Asian affiliations (Prowse et al., 2010). It may well be that these individuals were themselves or were descended from enslaved people originating from Asia, as there were slave-trade connections between India and China, and India and Rome (Warrington, 2014). ...
Article
This study investigated the ancestry, childhood residency and diet of 22 individuals buried at an A.D. 2nd and 4th century cemetery at Lant Street, in the southern burial area of Roman London. The possible presence of migrants was investigated using macromorphoscopics to assess ancestry, carbon and nitrogen isotopes to study diet, and oxygen isotopes to examine migration. Diets were found to be primarily C 3-based with limited input of aquatic resources, in contrast to some other populations in Roman Britain and proximity to the River Thames. The skeletal morphology showed the likely African ancestry of four individuals, and Asian ancestry of two individuals, with oxygen isotopes indicating a circum-Mediterranean origin for five individuals. Our data suggests that the population of the southern suburb had an ongoing connection with immigrants, especially those from the southern Mediterranean.
... Geophysical prospection confirmed the existence of a settlement with substantial remains of Roman buildings. Subsequent excavation and survey by Canadian, British and Italian universities at and around Vagnari furnished evidence for a vicus in which labourers and dependents lived, a cemetery associated with the vicus, and a possible residence of the estate manager (at San Felice) Small and Small, 2007;Prowse and Small, 2009;McCallum and vanderLeest, 2010;Prowse et al., 2010;Small, 2011;see also above (pp. 371-4) and below (pp. ...
Article
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Ancient Rome was the capital of an empire of ~70 million inhabitants, but little is known about the genetics of ancient Romans. Here we present 127 genomes from 29 archaeological sites in and around Rome, spanning the past 12,000 years. We observe two major prehistoric ancestry transitions: one with the introduction of farming and another prior to the Iron Age. By the founding of Rome, the genetic composition of the region approximated that of modern Mediterranean populations. During the Imperial period, Rome’s population received net immigration from the Near East, followed by an increase in genetic contributions from Europe. These ancestry shifts mirrored the geopolitical affiliations of Rome and were accompanied by marked interindividual diversity, reflecting gene flow from across the Mediterranean, Europe, and North Africa
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This represents one of several sections of "A Bibliography Related to Crime Scene Interpretation with Emphases in Geotaphonomic and Forensic Archaeological Field Techniques, Nineteenth Edition" (The complete bibliography is also included at ResearchGate.net.). This is the most recent edition of a bibliography containing resources for multiple areas of crime scene, and particularly outdoor crime scene, investigations. It replaces the prior edition and contains approximately 10,000 additional citations. As an ongoing project, additional references, as encountered, will be added to future editions. Popular and scientific references to the use of stable isotopes in identifying skeletal remains; or, more accurately, identifying geographical ranges in which the decedent may have lived, are the focus of this section. It also includes topics such as Carbon 14 dating and bomb pulse data. Stable isotope analyses may provide investigators clues to the spatial history of unidentified victims. Our bones and teeth, throughout our lives become reservoirs for those chemical elements to which we are exposed. The longer those exposures to the varied concentrations of different elements in different areas of the world, the more likely the victim can be determined as having resided in a particular area. By knowing the areas inhabited by a victim, the more likely investigators will be able to track down his, or her, identity. Unlike radioactive isotopes, stable isotopes never disintegrate. Schwarz, (2007), provides a good example of the forensic value of stable isotopes: "Most of the O atoms in our body come from the water we drink, and is usually isotopically like the precipitation where we live. Therefore, we can often learn where a person lived from the isotopic composition of their teeth and bones. Fortunately, we now have maps showing the distribution of 18O/16O ratios in precipitation falling over North America and Europe which we can use to help trace the place of origin of a murder victim. Even burned remains can be analyzed this way." (Schwarz, 2007:28) Like DNA, stable isotope analyses will continue to be developed and be refined. And like DNA analyses, it may someday be a staple in the forensic scientist's toolbox. Because stable isotope analysis is so dependent on the proper collection of known environmental samples, the researcher is also referred to the section Geoarchaeology and Soil Science. Our culture obviously impacts and reflects where we live and what we consume. For those reasons, the researcher may find useful citations in the section entitled Criminal and Cultural Behavior. That said, crime scene investigators should also remember that other animal species and plant life associated with crime scenes, also reflect stable isotope signatures which may aid in reconstructing crime scene events. (2076 citations)
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This research explores the contribution bioarchaeology can make to the study of slavery in Roman Britain, responding to the calls by Webster and colleagues for the greater use of osteological and scientific techniques in this endeavour. It reviews the evidence for the bodies of the enslaved in the primary sources and bioarchaeological evidence from the New World and the Roman Empire. The paper aims to establish patterns of physiological stress and disease, which could be used to reconstruct osteobiographies of these individuals, and applies these findings to bioarchaeological evidence from Britain. It concludes that at the present time, it may not be possible for us to successfully separate out the enslaved from the poor or bonded labourers, because their life experiences were very similar. Nevertheless, these people are overlooked in the archaeological record, so unless we attempt to search for them in the extant evidence, the life experiences of the majority of the Romano-British population who were vital to its economy will remain lost to us.
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Recent decades have been fruitful for the gathering of new evidence, and for the establishment of new methods and theoretical perspectives in Late Roman funerary archaeology. This paper reflects on three aspects of the new data, distribution, character and dissemination, using examples from Britain and beyond. Grave distribution is strongly biased towards urban contexts, with consequences for socio-cultural and demographic analysis. Opportunities to advance understanding of burial as a process rather than a single depositional moment are discussed, including funerary rituals, commemorative activity, grave marking and the disturbance of human remains. A fuller exploitation of digital dissemination is advocated, in particular to allow one of the richest pre-modern skeletal samples to achieve an impact commensurate with its scale and quality.
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Since 2004 a team from Mount Allison and Saint Mary’s Universities has undertaken archaeological investigation, which includes survey, geophysical prospection, and excavation, of the Roman villa site at San Felice. Evidence suggests that the site and the nearby vicus site at Vagnari were part of a rather large imperial estate in the Basentello River Valley that separated ancient Apulia from Lucania. This preliminary report presents an interpretation of a variety of datasets that suggest that the site had an important and prominent residential function until it became an imperial estate, likely sometime in the early Julio-Claudian period, after which there appears to have been an increase in productive activities within the structure. The architectural remains, artefactual assemblage, and environmental evidence collected reveal the local and regional connections and significance of this villa and the estate to which it belonged.
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