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Combining dental calculus with isotope analysis in the Alps: New evidence from the Roman and medieval cemeteries of Lamon, Italy

Fiorin, Elena; Moore, Joanna; Montgomery, Janet; Mariotti Lippi, Marta; Nowell, Geoff; Forlin, Paolo

Combining dental calculus with isotope analysis in the Alps: New evidence from the Roman and medieval cemeteries of Lamon, Italy Thumbnail


Elena Fiorin

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Joanna Moore
Isotope Research Technician

Marta Mariotti Lippi

Geoff Nowell

Paolo Forlin


This study presents the results of integrated isotopic and dental calculus analyses of a number of individuals buried in two cemeteries of Roman and medieval chronology in Lamon(Belluno), northern Italy. Eleven individuals from the Roman cemetery of San Donato and six from the medieval cemetery of San Pietro are presented and discussed. The results suggest a continuity of geographic residence for the two populations, with most of the analysed individuals showing a local or regional origin. Carbon and nitrogen isotopes are indicative of a diet based on a mixed C3/C4 plant consumption and rich in animal proteins, with no significant difference between the Roman and the medieval populations. The consumption of C4 plants, more resilient to the Alpine climate, is consistently documented both by isotopes and dental calculus. Dental calculus results permit the characterisation of the typology of the crop consumed, namely millet, barley/wheat and legumes and may also suggest differing cooking processes between the Roman and the medieval periods. Phytoliths, vascular elements, fungal spores and animal remains from dental calculus provide new insights into the diet of the analysed individuals but also, hypothetically, into possible medicinal treatments. The presence of birds such as fowls and ducks in the medieval diet of some individuals from San Pietro has also emerged. Overall, the results of this study open a new window into the biographies of the individuals analysed, their diet, mobility, habits, and environment, thus stimulating further and more systematic investigation on the populations occupying an Alpine sector which is still poorly understood from an archaeological perspective.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 25, 2021
Online Publication Date Nov 26, 2021
Publication Date 2023-04
Deposit Date Dec 2, 2021
Publicly Available Date Dec 3, 2021
Journal Quaternary International
Print ISSN 1040-6182
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 653–654
Pages 89-102
Public URL


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