Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor S.R. Saunders
This study investigates diet in the human skeletal sample from the necropolis of Isola Sacra, Italy (ca. 1st -3 rd centuries AD). Dietary patterns inferred from isotopic and dental health data are examined in relation to documentary and archaeological information on the diets of people in ancient Rome. The isotopic data indicate that the diet of this coastal population was a mixture of approximately 60% terrestrial and 40% marine resources. Males are enriched in 13 C and 15 N, suggesting a higher proportion of marine foods in their diet. There is some isotopic variability between age categories, but very little variation between different burial types in the cemetery. Comparison with a rural Roman sample reveals an isotopic distinction between consumers of predominantly terrestrial resources and those consuming a significant proportion of marine resources. Isotopic analysis of infant ribs suggests that weaning began around 3 months and lasted until 2 years of age, and that infants were fed a predominantly grain-based weaning diet. Caries, antemortem tooth loss (AMTL), tooth wear, abscesses, and calculus were examined, and they indicate a moderately good level of oral health in the Isola Sacra sample, consistent with evidence from other Roman period skeletal samples. Only calculus levels are significantly different between males and females, although males have higher levels of tooth wear and caries and females have higher levels of AMTL. There is no significant association between dental health and burial type. Overall levels of calculus, caries, and tooth wear in the deciduous teeth are low in this sample, but pathological lesions begin to appear as early as 2.5 years and tooth wear starts as young as 1.5 years. The combined use of isotopic and dental evidence provides insight into the diets and lives of this significant Roman period skeletal sample.
Prowse, Tracy Lynn, "Isotopic and dental evidence for diet from the necropolis of Isola Sacra (1st--3rd centuries AD), Italy" (2001). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2331.