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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Exploring Variations in Diet and Migration from Late Antiquity to the Early Medieval Period in the Veneto, Italy: A Biochemical Analysis
by Maxwell, Ashley B., Ph.D., University of South Florida, 2019, 412; 13814120
Abstract (Summary)

This project tests the hypothesis that the Langobard migration into the Roman/Byzantine Veneto (northeastern Italy) resulted in significant dietary changes from Late Antiquity (4-5th centuries AD) to the Early Medieval period (6-8th centuries AD). At the end of the Great Germanic Migrations in AD 568, Langobards from Pannonia entered and occupied two-thirds of the Italian peninsula. It is unclear how large these migrations were, as historical documents exaggerate mass movements; however, conservative estimates suggest they made up 8% of the areas they occupied. The degree to which the Langobards influenced economic change and subsistence in this area is poorly understood. Therefore, the goal of this research is to use stable isotope analyses on human remains in conjunction with historical and archaeological data to understand how the migration of the Langobards influenced the population structure and political economy (diet) in the Veneto.

A total of 149 individual bone samples from seven sites spanning the 4-8th centuries AD from the Veneto underwent stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis. In addition, 60 premolars were sampled for stable carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen isotope analysis to assess migration and dietary changes. Previous paleodietary analyses suggest that the traditional Roman diet consisted of C3 terrestrial plants, such as wheat and barley, and domesticated animals with some contributions from fish. The Langobards consumed a mix of C3 and C4 (millet and sorghum) terrestrial plants and animals. C4 plants such as millet were often considered a low socioeconomic status food source during the Roman Empire.

The results indicate that migrating Langobards are not present in the cemetery samples; however, migrating Roman/Byzantines are. This suggests a migration inland from the Byzantine occupied coast for better economic prospects. Byzantine occupied areas in Italy experienced heavy taxations, while the Langobards reduced this burden on the location populations. The dietary analyses show significant differences in diet between local and non-local individuals, with non-local individuals consuming more C3 energy sources (wheat) earlier in life. In terms of overall diet in the Veneto, there appears to be an increase in millet consumption from Late Antiquity to the Early Medieval period. There are no significant differences in socioeconomic status or sex, suggesting that millet became standardized in the Veneto, reflecting a sociocultural change in dietary practices. This research is significant because it fills a geographical and chronological gap in Italian history, during a period of significant migration and economic change.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tykot, Robert H.
Commitee: Bethard, Jonathan, Decker, Michael, Killgrove, Kristina, Vianello, Andrea, Wallman, Diane
School: University of South Florida
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 80/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Physical anthropology
Keywords: Bioarchaeology, Mobility, Paleodiet, Stable isotope analysis
Publication Number: 13814120
ISBN: 978-1-392-22926-2
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