Non-Adult Palaeopathology and Nutrition in pre-Roman Italy

In Europe, palaeopathological analyses of scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) predominantly corroborates its presence during the post-medieval period, in association with the burials of sailors, soldiers, or famine victims. By contrast, scant sources of this disease are offered for other historical periods. This project focuses on reconstructing health conditions and dietary profiles in Pontecagnano, one of the best archaeologically-documented pre-Roman sites in Italy. The palaeopathological analysis of an Etruscan-period (720-580 BCE) skeletal sample of non-adults reveals the presence of typical scorbutic lesions (e.g. diffuse porosities of the skull, endocranial lesions and periosteal new bone formation on pelvis and long bones) which fit with a diagnosis of scurvy.

This project aims to combine skeletal palaeopathology and biochemistry of bone and tooth tissue in order to reconstruct early life-histories of individuals with and without palaeopathological indicators. The dietary profile of these individuals will be investigated by incremental dentine sampling for stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis, bulk bone collagen for stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis, and stable carbon and oxygen isotope analysis of tooth enamel bioapatite. The generated life history data will be used to extend our knowledge about the prevalence of scurvy in archaeological populations in Mediterranean Europe, potentially offering important insights into childhood conditions and nutrition, as well as into human health and metabolic disease as a whole.

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