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Durham e-Theses
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Caves and human lifeways in Middle Bronze Age Central Italy: a social bioarchaeology approach

SILVESTRI, LETIZIA (2017) Caves and human lifeways in Middle Bronze Age Central Italy: a social bioarchaeology approach. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis is about the Middle Bronze Age (MBA: 1750-1450 BC) caves of central Italy, and the faunal and plant remains found inside them using the combined approach of contextual archaeology and social bioarchaeology. I draw new inferences from these ecofactual remains, which are crucial to improving our understanding of human lifeways in the Apennine region of the Italian peninsula.
This work is much needed both in the field of cave archaeology (especially in relation to the Italian area) and in that of bioarchaeology. Here, traditional methodological issues, such as a tendency to ignore the ritual aspects of cave deposits, have produced substantial biases in the interpretations of the subsistence strategies. In addition, such traditional approaches based on Higgs’ (1975) palaeoeconomy have prevented bioarchaeological disciplines such as zooarchaeology and palaeoethnobotany from being productively used in several fields of application, notably in social archaeology.
By analysingthe data published over the last 35 years, as well as four archival collections and the new data from the newly excavated deposits at Mora Cavorso, Pastena and Collepardo caves, I have been able to:
1) recognise cave datasets as biased sources for the direct reconstruction of palaeoeconomy;
2) identify significant evidence pointing to the coexistence of agriculture and sheep farming even at the same sites, and to infer new information about seasonality and transhumance in the study area;
3) isolate recurrent trends in animal and plant selection in the sampled caves. This evidence points to specific ritual choices that must have been integrated into the religious framework of the communities that used these caves. This highlights both the variability of human practices undertaken at these sites, and the similarities between them, shedding more light on the nature and – in some cases – the possible significance of such rituals.
In sum, I demonstrate how complex the use of caves in MBA central Italy was, and that a strict categorisation of such uses (as domestic, ritual, burial) is misleading.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Middle Bronze Age, cave archaeology, social bioarchaeology, social zooarchaeology, social palaeoethnobotany, later prehistory, Italian protohistory
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Jul 2017 16:50

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