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Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2012 Oct 30;26(20):2393-8. doi: 10.1002/rcm.6302.

The privileged burial of the Pava Pieve (Siena, 8th Century AD).

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Center for Isotope Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage (CIRCE), Second University of Naples Department of Environmental Science, Naples, Italy.



The 6(th) archaeological excavation campaign performed at the 'Pieve di Pava' (San Giovanni d'Asso, Siena, Italy) unearthed a privileged stone burial of a single individual (US 2378), covered by a monolithic slab and placed in front of an altar. The skeletal remains of a young male (18-20 years old), not in anatomical connection, were found at the bottom floor of a tomb (160 cm long, 40 cm large and over 70 cm deep).


A multidisciplinary study has been carried out concerning that privileged bone burial. The study combines paleopathology studies, stable isotope palaeodietary reconstruction, radiocarbon dating and archaeological analyses.


(14)  C dating of the skeleton revealed a date between 650 and 688 AD. Stable isotope analysis (δ(18) O, δ(13) C, δ(15) N) attested that he was probably a member of the local population, whose diet was rather rich in animal proteins. The paleopathological study diagnosed a case of acromesomelic dysplasia, a congenital anomaly with disproportion of the limbs. Archaeological evidence regarding the circular delimitation of the bones suggested that the skeleton was a secondary deposition, transported to the church in a sack.


We argue that the relic was used for the re-consecration of the church, following the restoration work in the 8(th) century. We conclude that the skeleton belonged to an eminent personage (e.g., either the member of a local elite family or a saint).

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