Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Migration, Conversion and the Creation of an Identity in Southeast Europe: A Biological Distance and Strontium Isotope Analysis of Ottoman Communities in Romania, Hungary and Croatia
by Allen, Kathryn Grow, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2017, 454; 10284711
Abstract (Summary)

There are long-standing debates regarding the history and identity of Ottoman communities that settled in Southeast Europe during the Ottoman period. As with any political expansion, individuals from Anatolia, the capital region of the empire, were likely to have migrated to newly acquired areas as soldiers, administrators, and political leaders. A mass migration of people is, however, not the only process that may have defined the Ottoman communities in Southeast Europe, as historic documents also record the conversion of Europeans to Islam for a variety of reasons. A consensus on whether migration or conversion practices more significantly impacted the biological makeup of Ottoman Europe has not been reached.

Thus far, the nature and impact of the Ottoman past in Europe have been predominately studied from the evidence and viewpoint of written history. Anthropological methods and theory have the potential to shed light on the population dynamics of this key period however. This dissertation employed advancements from both archaeology and biological anthropology to conduct a regional bioarchaeological analysis of the European Ottoman period, seeking a better understanding of identity in this historic context.

Two forms of analyses allowed for in-depth inquiry into biological aspects of identity in Ottoman Europe. First, the assessment of biological affinities from four European Ottoman period groups was done using biological distance analyses of craniometric and cranial non-metric morphological variation. These communities, today located in Hungary, Romania, and Croatia, were compared not only to each other, but also to other European and Anatolian populations. The European and Anatolian comparative populations were represented by four skeletal series from Hungary, Austria, Croatia, and Anatolia. The second method, utilized for one of the Ottoman period populations (from Romania), analyzed strontium isotopes from human and faunal dental enamel. Together, these methods provided a dynamic approach for highlighting markers of biological identity and affinity from human skeletal remains.

The use of biological distance and strontium isotope analyses highlighted a number of interesting patterns in the European Ottoman communities. The Ottoman populations appear diverse in terms of constituting a mix of peoples from different biological backgrounds. This is evident both within a single Ottoman community, as well as between communities located in different parts of the Ottoman territory. Evidence of this diversity was clear between males and females in different Ottoman period populations. Larger than expected between-sex biological differences within the Ottoman communities suggest distinct population histories for males and females.

The diversity found within and between the four Ottoman period populations analyzed in this research can be used to better understand different social and political processes influencing the demography of Ottoman Europe. With migration and conversion frequently cited as the two main processes contributing to population change in the region, this analysis allowed for the consideration of how unique trajectories of both impacted different individuals and different groups of people in these societies. The biological data highlighted in this study disagree with many simplistic historical conclusions that cite either migration or conversion as the singular process behind the creation of Ottoman communities and the European Ottoman identity.

Despite historic evidence that immigration from Anatolia and the conversion of Europeans to Islam impacted the demography of European Ottomans, these communities are at times treated as biologically homogeneous ethnic groups. The Ottoman-established Muslim populations in Southeast Europe are not only treated as a distinct group historically, the division between Muslims or ‘Turks’ and Europeans has been maintained in some modern communities as well. With Islamic relations in some regions of contemporary Europe continuing to deteriorate, long-held notions that European Muslims are the ‘other’, trespassers on Christian lands, are unlikely to be assuaged. The creation of the European Muslim identity descending from the Ottoman period includes a complex history that is still not fully understood. Many modern identities are created from a complex amalgamation of biological and cultural processes, both historical and modern in origin, committing diverse peoples into uniform categories. The bioarchaeology of this dynamic period provided new data on groups of people that influenced both the past and present in Southeast Europe.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Chevral, Timothy J.
Commitee: Biehl, Peter, Milisauskas, Sarunas R., von Cramon-Taubadel, Noreen
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology, Physical anthropology, East European Studies
Keywords: Bioarchaeology, Biodistance, Identity, Isotope, Ottoman, Southeast Europe
Publication Number: 10284711
ISBN: 978-0-355-04808-7
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