Bioarchaeology of Life and Death in Tuscany, Italy, AD 900–1900

Sunday, 15 February 2015: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Room LL21E (San Jose Convention Center)
Clark Spencer Larsen, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Giuseppe Vercellotti, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Gino Fornaciari, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
Human remains from archaeological contexts provide a fund of information for addressing questions and hypotheses about what life was like in the past.  These remains are especially important because they represent the individual and their life experiences from early childhood through adulthood, and especially those experiences relating to health and lifestyle.  This paper presents an overview of health indicators documented in an ongoing bioarchaeological project involving the study of remains of people interred at the church of San Pietro a Pozzeveri, located near the village of Badia Pozzeveri in the province of Tuscany, northern Italy.  Founded in the 11th century A.D., the church was in continuous existence until the mid-20th century.  The church was part of a monastery during the 12th through 14th centuries, and was located on the Via Francigena, a strategic trade and pilgrimage route connecting Canterbury, England, with Rome.  Archaeological excavations have produced numerous skeletons from the medieval, Renaissance, and modern (17th to 19th centuries) periods.  Key events that impacted the people living in this region included the Black Death, which swept through Europe in the medieval period,  and the local record of the global cholera epidemic in the mid-19th century.  Study of skeletal and dental pathology (osteoperiostitis, osteoarthritis, dental caries), trauma, and other evidence of living conditions reveals the hardships of life in this setting.  The record of infection and poor oral health speaks to both the poor circumstances of diet, including a focus on dietary carbohydrates, and poor health generally in the region in particular and Europe in general during this thousand-year period of history.