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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2009 Jun;139(2):146-53. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20955.

Stable isotope evidence for the consumption of millet and other plants in Bronze Age Italy.

Author information

1
Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell'Uomo, Sapienza Università di Roma, 00185 Roma, Italy. maryanne.tafuri@uniroma1.it

Abstract

Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis was carried out on human and animal bones from four inland Early and Middle Bronze Age sites in Northern and Southern Italy. The main aims of the investigation were to explore the contribution of plant foods to the human diet and to examine any dietary differences between and within each of the sites. At two of the sites in Northern Italy, human and animal bones were significantly enriched in 13C. This finding was attributed to the consumption of domestic millets (Panicum miliaceum and/or Setaria italica), which are C4 pathway plants. Conversely, individuals from the two Bronze Age sites in Southern Italy were significantly depleted in 13C compared to those from the north. Here, millet was absent from the diet, and protein from C3 plants made a much greater dietary contribution than animal protein. This finding highlights the importance of cereal cultivation, most likely of wheat and barley, in the south of Italy during the Bronze Age. Overall, our results support the idea that the widespread cultivation of millet first occurred in Northern Italy, following its introduction from across the Alps in Central Europe. Finally, we found no significant differences in the stable isotope values between individuals at each site, when grouped by their sex or presence of grave goods. This leads to the conclusion that any status difference that may have existed is not reflected in the long-term dietary record, or at least not as measurable by stable isotope analysis.

PMID:
19051259
DOI:
10.1002/ajpa.20955
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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