The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Palaeopathology and urban decline at Imperial Gabii (Italy)


Research Laboratories of Archaeology, UNC Chapel Hill

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

The ancient Italian cities of Gabii and Rome urbanized in parallel just 12 miles apart. Whereas Rome continued to expand throughout the Imperial period (1st-4th centuries AD), Gabii began to decline in the Late Republic (1st century BC). In 2009, excavations at Gabii revealed numerous Imperial-period graves within the city walls, a pattern that supports the decline and abandonment of the city in Imperial times.

Skeletal remains of 26 individuals were analyzed in order to learn more about the use of the city in Imperial times and the population buried therein. Demographic analysis shows a relatively equal sex ratio, but there are no subadults between 2 and 18 years of age, quite unusual for an Imperial cemetery. Pathological analysis of the skeletons revealed stressful lives for the Gabines. With a caries true prevalence rate (TPR) of 8.2% and high frequencies of dental calculus (73% TPR), abscesses (3.3% TPR), and antemortem tooth loss (11.6% TPR), the Gabine population had much poorer dental health than previously reported suburban populations. Surprisingly few infant remains yielded evidence of porotic hyperostosis (6.9%), but those that did had very severe lesions.

The bioarchaeology of Gabii is yielding new information on urban development and collapse in Latium. People were likely buried in the city center during a time of population contraction, and their physically stressed skeletons suggest that life for the lower classes at Gabii was difficult, even more so than for people living in other areas of the Roman suburbs.

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