The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Changes in skeletal CSG robusticity and sociopolitical changes in central Italy Samnites (800-200 BC)

VITALE S. SPARACELLO1, ALFREDO COPPA2 and VINCENZO D'ERCOLE3.

1Anthropology, The University of New Mexico, 2Biologia Umana, Università Sapienza di Roma, 3Archaeology, Ministero Beni Culturali, Roma

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The purpose of this research is contrasting the inferences on past physical activity inferred from grave goods composition with actual humeral, femoral, and tibial mechanical properties. CSG properties were estimated in Samnite individuals (n=315) from the necropolis of Bazzano (L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Central Italy) belonging to the Orientalizing-Archaic period (O-A; 800-600 BC, n=122), the Vth century (V SEC; 500-400 BC, n=40), and the Hellenistic period (ELL; 400-100 BC; n=111). The three periods correspond to generalized shifts in grave goods composition: in the O-A, male burials contain weapons such as swords and spears; in the V SEC, grave goods are rare; in the ELL, weapons virtually disappear and grave goods recall the Greek symposium tradition. At a sociopolitical level, it is believed that those cultural changes accompanied a transition from a paramount chiefdom to a democratic republic. We expected to find a diachronic decline in male humeral bilateral asymmetry, considered a proxy for unimanual weapon use. Results show a diachronic decrease in humeral asymmetry in males, with the O-A and V SEC males significantly more lateralized than ELL males P<0.01). In absence of subsistence changes, we can associate the diachronic decrease in male bilateral asymmetry with a generalized decrease in the use of unimanual weaponry. Interestingly, there are no historical accounts of large scale warfare waged by Samnites until the Hellenistic period. In this case, high lateralization seems to be correlated more with the symbolic importance of the warrior figure rather than the actual occurrence of large scale warfare.

Hibben Foundation - University if New Mexico

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