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A multidisciplinary approach to investigate the osteobiography of the Roman Imperial population from Muracciola Torresina (Palestrina, Rome, Italy)

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  • Marica Baldoni
  • Angelo Gismondi
  • Michelle Marie Alexander
  • Alessia D'Agostino
  • Domitilla Tibaldi
  • Gabriele Di Marco
  • Giuseppina Scano
  • Antonella Canini
  • Emmanuela Caserta
  • Olga Richards
  • Cristina Martinez-Labarga


Publication details

JournalJournal of Archaeological Science Reports
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Jul 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2019
DatePublished (current) - Oct 2019
Number of pages18
Early online date14/08/19
Original languageEnglish


The present research provides the osteobiographical reconstruction of the Roman Imperial population of the rural area of Muracciola Torresina (Palestrina, Rome, Italy) through an innovative multidisciplinary approach, combining evidence from skeletal biology, biomolecules and archaeobotany.

The excavation of the site, unearthed 76 individuals: 84.2% adults and 15.8% non-adults. Morphological examination showed a higher prevalence of females with respect to males (M:F = 0.89). Musculoskeletal stress marker analysis highlighted a probable division of daily tasks between sexes; the observed modifications mainly affected the upper limbs with a particular involvement of shoulder and elbow joints. The population seems to have experienced physically strenuous life conditions, as suggested by the high frequency of degenerative and infectious diseases.

Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope data supported an omnivorous diet mainly based on C3 plants and terrestrial animal protein. No statistically significant difference was found between sexes or age classes, even though a discrete variability of nitrogen isotopic values was observed which was hypothesized to reflect the consumption of pulses by certain individuals with the lowest values. Microscopic analysis of dental calculus detected Triticeae starch granules in the majority of the analyzed individuals. Chromatographic profiles additionally revealed the presence of ephedrine derivatives in the calculus of two individuals, an alkaloid which might indicate the consumption of Ephedra species used as medicinal plant due to its bronchodilator, nasal decongestant and vasoconstrictor properties.

This use of multiple cutting-edge techniques has revealed a detailed snapshot of the diet and lifeways of the first Roman Imperial population to be recovered from the area of ancient Praeneste.

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