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Title: More than bones : an investigation of life, death and diet in later prehistoric Slovenia and Croatia
Author: Nicholls, Rebecca A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 525X
Awarding Body: University of Bradford
Current Institution: University of Bradford
Date of Award: 2017
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The East Alpine region formed an important crossroads in later prehistoric Europe, through which ideas, people and objects flowed. This was particularly the case during the Late Bronze Age/ Early Iron Age, when an increasingly competitive society was evolving, with the formation of more complex social structures and the rise of 'elites'. This has been evidenced in a shift in burial customs, from Urnfield-type cremation burial to the construction of tumuli and the adoption of elaborate inhumation burial. This multidisciplinary, multi-scalar approach to the analysis of human remains aims to explore the evolving structure, homogeneity and heterogeneity of communities inhabiting central and eastern Slovenia, and north-eastern Croatia, during the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. The application of multiple methods, including the osteological analysis of cremated and non-cremated human remains, radiocarbon dating, stable isotope analysis (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and strontium) and aDNA analysis has facilitated the exploration and interpretation of later prehistoric social structure and lifestyle. The use of carbon (from enamel carbonate and collagen) and nitrogen stable isotope analysis has highlighted important dietary distinctions between communities inhabiting this region and previous studies from elsewhere in contemporary Europe - specifically a high dependence on millet as a staple crop. This has been evidenced by δ13C values of between -17‰ and -15.3‰ from bone collagen. δ15N values of between 7.6‰ and 9.1‰ support this interpretation as they do not indicate the consumption of marine protein. Increased δ15N values of up to 13.5‰ from deciduous dentine have been interpreted as the influence of dietary and metabolic conditions, particularly in the presentation of an Infant exhibited palaeopathological evidence of severe metabolic disease. Complementary isotopic methods, including oxygen isotope ratios and enamel carbonate carbon, have also highlighted heterogeneity in childhood diet, reflecting the transition from a high lipid diet of breastmilk, to a diet of carbohydrates, indicative of weaning. In addition to these findings, the application of radiocarbon dating on cremated and nio-cremated human bone has expanded the current understanding of mortuary practices in this study area. Inhumation burial, previously thought synomemous with the Iron Age, has been now been identified throughout the Bronze Age at the cemetery of Obrežje. The application of this multi-scalar approach to combining and interpreting these data sets has allowed for the investigation of individual biographies, as well as regional trends. This research illustrates the advantages of bringing together multiple lines of evidence for the creation of informed interpretations regarding the life, death and diet of prehistoric peoples of the East Alpine region, and beyond.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: European Union
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Stable isotopes ; Osteology ; Early Iron Age ; Bronze Age ; Funerary ; Cremation ; Inhumation ; Slovenia ; Croatia ; Human remains ; Diet