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

A Death in the Borderlands: Oxygen Isotope Evidence for Mobility from a Pithos Burial at Oğlanqala, Azerbaijan


Anthropology, The Ohio State University

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During the late 1st c. BCE and early 1st c. CE, the Caucasus became a focus of attention for the Roman and Parthian Empires as tension rose between the powers over political influence in the region. Yet, archaeological evidence, particularly human remains, of their physical involvement in the Caucasus is sparse. At the site of Oglanqala in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, a pithos burial found containing an individual buried with Roman artifacts from the period may be a representative of the foreign presence attested by texts. This project presents the results of an oxygen isotope study on dental enamel collected from the individual in order to determine local or non-local status. Comparative local ratios were determined from dental enamel collected from nearby archaeological fauna. Isotope results of the individual were considerably different from local ratios, suggesting the individual was a foreigner. Based on these biochemical results and with the support of textual and archaeological evidence, I hypothesize that the individual originated from Europe and suggest possible reasons for his or her presence in the region.

Fieldwork for this project was funded, in part, by Emory University's Scholarly Inquiry and Research at Emory.

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