A bioarchaeological approach to prehistoric cemetery populations from western and central Greek Macedonia
The osteological material under study consists of 510 skeletal remains dating from the Early Neolithic (6000 BC) to the Early Iron Age (1100-700 BC). It comes from nine different cemeteries and burial locations extending from the coastal to the inland areas of the study region. The current thesis attempts to explore two major issues: 1) the reconstruction of aspects of life history and 2) the treatment and manipulation of the deceased as revealed by the human skeletal remains. With regard to the former, the investigation of demographic parameters, patterns of health and oral status as well as diet have been considered. In short, local conditions defined by environmental and social constraints probably affected the general quality of life reconstructed for the study populations. There is an overall tendency however, towards declining levels of health and oral status in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age populations, while certain assemblages provide high levels of infant and child mortality, possibly associated with a type of anaemia. There is also a substantial involvement of the upper skeleton in work patterns, possibly related to activities such as food acquisition, processing and preparation. Meanwhile, the evidence for dietary patterns from the Neolithic-Early Bronze Ages to the Late Bronze-Early Iron Ages is consistent with an overall shift from a high reliance on meat consumption to a diet based on carbohydrate foodstuffs. The evaluation of the manipulation of the deceased, alongside the evidence for mortuary differentiation through time, reveals a striking transformation from the practice of single inhumations in the Early Bronze Age to multiple/secondary burials in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age assemblages, suggesting a shift in emphasis from individual to lineage-group identity. Furthermore, the integration of biological inferences with the evidence of mortuary behaviour provides further insights into sex roles and the position of subadults, otherwise invisible, in the living community.