September 14, 2012

Dietary variability of early farmers from Southeastern Italy

Am J Phys Anthropol DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22134

Examining dietary variability of the earliest farmers of South-Eastern Italy

Roberta Lelli et al.

Stable isotope analysis of human remains has been used to address long-standing debates regarding the speed and degree to which the introduction of farming transformed diet. In Europe, this debate has centered on northern and Atlantic regions with much less attention devoted to the arrival of farming across the Mediterranean. This study presents carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses of collagen from 19 human and 37 faunal remains from eight sites in the Apulia and Marche regions of south-eastern and central Italy, dating to the early phases of agricultural adoption during the first half of the 6th Millennium BC. Where collagen preservation permitted, sulfur stable isotope analysis was also performed. Overall, there was significant isotopic variation between the different geographic regions, although there was also considerable uncertainty in interpreting these data, especially given heterogeneous isotope values for fauna from site to site. By considering isotope data from each region separately, it was noticeable that the degree of carbon isotope enrichment in humans compared to fauna was higher for individuals buried near the coast, consistent with increased marine consumption. Coastal individuals also had higher sulfur isotope values. Nitrogen isotope values were very variable between individuals and regions and, in some cases, were consistent with very high plant food consumption. Overall, early “farmers” in south-east and central Italy consumed a wide range of foods, including marine, and had much more variable stable isotope values than those observed in central and northern Europe during this period, perhaps indicating a different mode for agricultural adoption.



pconroy said...

That would indicate to me a patchwork of coastal foragers and interspersed farmer communities - perhaps more upstream or inland??

eurologist said...

That's not really surprising, given that Cardium spread along the Mediterranean cost via seafaring. So, these different modes of subsistence were probably an integrated part of the culture, perhaps dating back to an origin in the upper Levantine or southern Anatolian coast.

I have always suspected that with the neolithic separation of labor became much more important, since it makes a lot of sense that those who are better at something do exactly that - as long as the local groups are sufficiently populous to retain all knowledge.

(BTW, men named Schneider (Taylor) in Germany are significantly shorter and thinner than those named Schmidt (Smith)...)