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Changes in skeletal robusticity in an iron age agropastoral group The samnites from the Alfedena necropolis (Abruzzo Central Italy).

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 144:119–130 (2011)
Changes in Skeletal Robusticity in an Iron Age
Agropastoral Group: The Samnites From the Alfedena
Necropolis (Abruzzo, Central Italy)
V.S. Sparacello,1* O.M. Pearson,1 A. Coppa,2 and D. Marchi3
1
Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell’Uomo, Università ‘‘Sapienza’’ di Roma, Italy
3
Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, Durham, NC
2
KEY WORDS
cross-sectional geometry; humeral asymmetry; mobility; pastoralism; Neolithic
ABSTRACT
Cross-sectional geometrical (CSG) properties of an Iron Age Samnite group from the Alfedena
necropolis (Abruzzo, Italy, 2600–2400 B.P.) are compared with a Ligurian Neolithic sample (6000–5500
B.P.). In the period under examination, Samnites were
organized in a tribal confederation led by patrilinear
aristocracies, indicating incipient social stratification.
In comparison, Neolithic society lacked clear signs of
social hierarchy. The subsistence of both groups was
mainly based on pastoralism and agriculture, but
changes in habitual behavior are expected due to the
socio-economic transformations that characterized the
Iron Age. The Samnites’ warlike ideology suggests that
unimanual weapon-use and training would have
become frequent for males. The intensification of agriculture and the adoption of transhumant pastoralism,
performed by a smaller subset of the population, likely
led to a lower average level of logistic mobility. The
strongly genderized ideology of the period suggests a
strict sexual division of labor, with women primarily
performing sedentary tasks. CSG properties based on
periosteal contours were calculated for humeri, femora,
and tibiae (N 5 61). Results corroborated the expectations: Alfedena males show substantial humeral bilateral asymmetry, indicating prevalent use of one arm,
likely due to weapon training. In both sexes lower limb
results indicate reduced mobility with respect to the
Neolithic group. Sexual dimorphism is significant in
both humeral asymmetry and lower limb indicators of
mobility. Although both groups could be broadly
defined as agropastoral based on archeological and historical evidence, CSG analysis confirmed important differences in habitual behavior. Am J Phys Anthropol
144:119–130, 2011. V 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
The purpose of this research is to use biomechanical
analysis to help interpret changes in activity patterns
that occurred with the deep social and economical transformations of the Metal Ages, particularly the Italian
Iron Age. This period saw a dramatic demographic
expansion, agricultural intensification, a novel pattern of
land use, and a level of social stratification unknown in
Italy previously. In comparison, Neolithic pastoralists in
Italy had a society lacking indicators of social hierarchy
(Guidi, 2000; Robb, 2007). By the Iron Age, a more structured, proto-urban society had developed, with indications of incipient state formation (Peroni, 1989).
Although both Neolithic and Iron Age subsistence were
based on agriculture and pastoralism, changes in social
structure and economy are expected to have led to substantial changes in activity patterns. Testing if those hypothetical changes in habitual behavior are mirrored in
the skeletal biology of Iron Age groups may greatly contribute to our understanding of a crucial period of
human history.
Changes in habitual stresses and activities are
inferred here through the comparison of long bone mechanical parameters obtained from cross-sectional diaphyseal geometry (CSG) in two Italian samples: an Iron
Age sample from the Alfedena necropolis (2600–2400
B.P.; Parise Badoni and Ruggeri Giove, 1980) and a Middle Neolithic sample from the Finale Ligure area (6000–
5500 B.P; Maggi, 1997). Relevant bioarchaeological parameters such as the degree of mobility of a population,
the dissimilarity between male and female activities,
and the preferential use of one arm can be qualitatively
predicted from material and cultural evidence drawn
from archeology, ethnology, and history. CSG provides a
means to evaluate biological evidence for habitual activity, and the quantitative nature of its results provides a
more defined framework for comparisons between
human groups. The integration of numerical data
derived from biomechanical analysis of skeletal remains
with ethnographic and archaeological information has
proven to be a useful tool in reconstructing the physical
and behavioral environment of past and recent populations (e.g., Bridges, 1989; Ruff et al., 1993; Churchill
et al., 1996, 2000; Ruff, 1999, 2000a; Holt, 2003). Cortical bone is primarily responsive to strain prior to sexual
maturity (Pearson and Lieberman, 2004), suggesting
that inferences on activity patterns drawn from adult
skeletal properties should be limited to these groups on
which individuals participate in adult economic behaviors sufficiently early. However, as discussed by Ruff et
al. (2006b), CSG also reflect in part adult activities, and
C 2010
V
WILEY-LISS, INC.
C
*Correspondence to: Vitale Stefano Sparacello, Department of Anthropology MSC01-1040, 1 University of New Mexico NM871310001, Albuquerque, NM. E-mail: Vito@unm.edu
Received 24 December 2009; accepted 11 June 2010
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.21377
Published online 17 August 2010 in Wiley Online Library
(wileyonlinelibrary.com).
120
V.S. SPARACELLO ET AL.
adolescent activities likely parallel young adult activities
in many preindustrial societies, such as the ones analyzed in this article.
Although long bones from industrial groups are consistently less robust (relatively less rigid or strong) than
agriculturalist and foraging groups (Ruff et al., 1993), no
general pattern of changes in robusticity has been documented in those studies concentrating on the adoption or
intensification of agriculture (Ruff et al., 1984; Bridges,
1989; Ruff, 1999, 2008; Bridges et al., 2000 Wescott,
2006). Some studies found a decrease in relative long
bone strength, particularly in males (Ruff et al., 1984;
Larsen et al., 1995), while others documented an
increase in female humeral robusticity, especially on the
left side (Bridges, 1989). Many societies also show a
trend toward a reduction in the degree of lateralization
in the upper limb after a shift to agriculture, presumably
from decreases in hunting activities performed via
throwing and an increase in bimanually intensive activities, such as the use of grinding stones (Bridges, 1989;
Trinkaus et al., 1994; Churchill et al., 1996, 2000;
Marchi et al., 2006). However, specific activities such as
woodworking or warfare-related weapon training may
have a role in developing a certain degree of humeral
asymmetry in nonforaging economies (Rhodes and Knüsel, 2005; Sparacello and Marchi, 2008). Hunter-gatherers also tend to have less circular femoral diaphyses
than agriculturalists (Bridges, 1989; Ruff, 1999; Bridges
et al., 2000), which is thought to reflect decreased mobility among the agriculturalists. However, Robb (1994a)
hypothesized that, to the degree that they remain highly
mobile, herders may retain shape indices similar to
those of hunter-gatherers. His hypothesis has been confirmed by recent CSG analyses (Marchi et al., 2006;
Marchi, 2008; Sparacello and Marchi, 2008).
The variability of these patterns suggests that CSG
characteristics are not related in a simple, uniform way
to broad changes in subsistence, such as the passage to
a production economy or the intensification of agriculture. Rather, CSG results mirror the complexity of
human adaptations, and reflect the particular configurations that local subsistence economies take on the basis
of social, technological, and environmental factors. It
therefore becomes important to base predictions about
CSG parameters on as much information as possible,
integrating theoretical expectations with hypotheses
based on the available archaeological, ethnological, and
historical evidence.
Iron age and Alfedena socio-economic context
The Iron Age population considered here represents
the Samnite people. This well-defined ethnic proto-historic group shared a common language (Oscan) and law,
a tribal federal political organization, and a strong sense
of self-identification in a territory and people (Salmon,
1967). The sample studied here derives from the skeletal
series of the Alfedena necropolis, which is located in the
high valley of the Sangro River (Abruzzo, Central Italy).
With the Iron Age (first millennium B.C.) archeologists
recognize a sharp demographic increase in the Italian
peninsula. The number and the size of sites belonging to
the Iron Age outweigh all the preceding phases of prehistory, and include several large necropoli containing
thousands of burials distributed over a few centuries
(D’Agostino, 1974, Peroni, 1979). Many settlements
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
lasted for centuries, and were often fortified with walls,
or guarded from a system of hilltop fortified outposts.
One example of such large and durable settlements is
the site of Alfedena, which consists of a fortified hilltop
settlement and a vast necropolis of over 1,400 burials in
an area of about 35,000 m2 (Mariani, 1901).
In the Iron Age, a more intensive and stable form of
agriculture was adopted, probably in response to demographic pressure (Boserup, 1965, 1975). In the Italian
peninsula, agricultural intensification is inferred from the
shift of settlements away from grazing lands into areas
suitable for seed crops, by the appearance and increased
production of high quality metal objects such as metal
sickles and axes, and by the development of agricultural
techniques such as the use of the draught horse, the
plough, and the four-wheeled cart (Peroni, 1979). Pastoralism was still economically important, as suggested by
the presence of numerous tools for processing secondary
animal products in the archaeological assemblages of Italian Iron Age sites (Salmon, 1967). Most of the Samnites’
territory is mountainous, barren, and unsuitable for agriculture. Although farming activities are reported by
archaeologists at Alfedena, the most important economic
activity appears to have been stock-raising (Salmon,
1967). Herding took the form of annual, short- distance
‘‘vertical’’ transhumance. Herds were moved to the highlands during the summer and down to valleys during the
winter (D’Ercole, personal communication).
The Italian Iron Age saw an increase in social complexity, with the rise of aristocracies organized in tribal
confederacies based on multi-patrilinear alliances (Pallottino, 1991; Robb, 1994b). The societies become more
stratified, with the formation of a strong warrior aristocracy whose sphere of influence transcended the single
village (Peroni, 1979). At Alfedena, burial patterns
reflect the presence of an aristocracy held together by
extended kin coalitions. Tombs were arranged in family
circles, and a number of male and female tombs with
rich grave goods can be distinguished. The number of
contemporary circles with rich burials demonstrates that
in each community many family lines were part of the
dominant group (Vida Navarro, 1993). Multi-patrilinear
alliances are corroborated by studies of Alfedena cranial
epigenetic traits, suggesting a close-kin relationship
between males buried in the same funerary circle (Bondioli et al., 1986).
Increased social complexity was accompanied by
changes in the ideology of proto-historic societies. The
ideology of the aristocratic society of Iron Age proto-historic populations, including the Samnites, was based on
extolling warfare and male audacity (Robb, 1994b). Warrior paraphernalia constitute the main male grave goods.
At Alfedena, weapons of offense such as maces, swords,
axes, spears, and javelins were commonly found as male
grave goods (Parise Badoni and Ruggeri Giove, 1980),
and often show signs of use in combat or training
(Tagliamone, 1999). Several lines of evidence suggest
that warfare and weapon use were not only an ideological and cultural matter, but were also part of the everyday activity repertoire among Iron Age communities.
Accounts from early Roman historians report that Samnites ‘‘defended their settlements with the sturdy right
arms of their men rather than with walls,’’ and ‘‘educated their boys in the Spartan manner’’ (Salmon, 1967;
p 30). In central Italy, wars between neighboring tribal
states were common through the first millennium B.C.
(D’Agostino, 1974; Pallottino, 1991). Before being subju-
CSG CHANGES WITH IRON AGE SUBSISTENCE SHIFT
gated by Romans, Samnites tended to raid their neighbors for loot rather than trading with them. Historical
accounts suggest that plundering expeditions and retaliation by the victims were common (Salmon, 1967). Skeletal evidence of warfare activities can be found in the remarkable incidence of sword injuries and cranial trauma
in many Iron Age necropoli, including Alfedena, especially in males (Macchiarelli et al., 1981; Robb, 1997;
Paine et al., 2007). The nature and the severity of most
of the Alfedena traumas (especially large blade and
small projectile wounds) suggest that they were the
result of interpersonal violence. Given the evidence of
kin networks between males of the same community, it
is likely that injuries were inflicted from males of rival
groups, further supporting a scenario of a high level of
inter-community warfare.
Differences in activity between sexes in the Iron Age
were a consequence of the social stratification of a society in which moral coalitions were based on class and
gender (Robb, 1994b). Primary production activities were
performed by males, while females were relegated to
time-consuming sedentary roles such as secondary products and textile processing, child rearing, and craftwork
(Ehrenberg, 1989; Robb, 1994b).
Expectations of the comparison with the
Neolithic sample
Although both Iron Age and Neolithic people performed pastoralism and agriculture (Marchi et al., 2006;
Sparacello and Marchi, 2008), Iron Age socio-economic
and technological changes are expected to have had an
influence on habitual behavior. We expect to be able to
detect those changes in CSG skeletal robusticity patterns. Theoretical predictions and archaeological evidence lead to the following testable predictions:
1. Alfedena males are expected to show a high level of
humeral asymmetry in cross-sectional robusticity.
Several historical accounts are suggestive of frequent
use of unimanual weapons in battle and training. The
comparison with the Ligurian Neolithic males should
be informative, because this group shows a remarkable level of asymmetry possibly due to frequent use
of stone hatchets in various activities (Sparacello and
Marchi, 2008).
2. Alfedena females’ humeral asymmetry is expected to
be higher in comparison to their Neolithic counterparts. Neolithic females show humeral asymmetry
much lower than the values shown by sedentary modern samples. This has been attributed to daily stressful activities such as the use of bimanual stone
querns for cereal grinding (Marchi et al., 2006; Sparacello and Marchi, 2008). In the Iron Age, the use of
animal-driven querns for cereal grinding was introduced (Lynch and Rowland, 2005), which suggests
that the use of manual stone querns was a less common activity by that time. Finding higher lateralization in Alfedena females would corroborate the hypothesis that the introduction of animal-driven
querns freed Iron Age females from the strenuous
task of manual cereal processing. This should result
also in a decrease in humeral robusticity in the Alfedena female sample.
3. Both males and females of the Alfedena sample should
show lower CSG indicators of mobility with respect to
the Neolithic sample. Archaeological and historical evi-
121
dence strongly suggests that Alfedena economy was
based on pastoralism and that agriculture was a secondary activity (Salmon, 1967; D’Ercole, personal communication). However, theoretical expectations for the
Iron Age relative to the Neolithic predict agricultural
intensification due to demographic increase. With the
transition to a state-level society, it is expected that
herders and farming communities would become two
parts of a more complex economy (Chang and Koster,
1986) in which herding forms the base of aristocracy’s
wealth (Robb, 1994a). When this happens, herding is
performed by specialized herders, a small subset of the
population (Bonte, 1981). If this was the situation
among the Samnites, most Alfedena males would have
been involved in low-mobility agricultural tasks, and,
at a population level, CSG indicators of mobility should
be low. Females should show low mobility levels, being
involved in sedentary, time-consuming processing of
secondary products. In contrast, Neolithic people are
considered to be more mobile, and it is likely that
herding tasks were shared among most of the members of the community. Accordingly, lower limb CSG
properties of the Neolithic Ligurian sample suggest
high levels of mobility, especially in males (Marchi
et al., 2006; Marchi, 2008).
4. Differences in activity patterns between sexes are
expected in the CSG properties of the Alfedena sample.
If upper limb robusticity was shaped by a gendered
prestige activity such as weapon use and training, we
expect to detect its effects only in males. This should
lead to high sexual dimorphism in humeral bilateral
asymmetry. Females’ indicators of mobility should be
lower than males’, especially considering the ideal of
restricting females to sedentary tasks that was present
among Iron Age people (Robb, 1994b).
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The skeletal series studied here derives from excavations started at Alfedena in 1974. Archaeologists excavated 2,824 m2 of the necropolis, discovering 132 burials
interred over a period of about 150 years between 2600
and 2400 BP (Parise Badoni and Ruggeri Giove, 1980).
The burials were arranged in three well-defined funerary circles, which reflect family/clan relationship among
some individuals, as demonstrated also by the study of
cranial epigenetic traits (Bondioli et al., 1986; Rubini,
1996). Numerous bioanthropological papers have been
published regarding this skeletal series (see Rubini,
1996; Paine et al., 2007), which is considered a good
cross-section of the Samnite population over a small
time window. Grave good richness shows some variability across funerary circles and individuals, with the constant of the presence of offense weaponry in male tombs.
Some of the requirements of CSG research restrict the
sample of available bones. Only full adults (as judged by
fully closed epiphyses) not showing sign of advanced
senescence or manifest pathological conditions were
sampled. Sex was inferred in previous research on the basis of the morphometric characteristics of the pubic bone
(Washburn, 1948; Acsadi and Nemeskeri, 1970; Day
1975), and of the skull (Giles and Elliot, 1963; Boulinier,
1968; Acsadi and Nemeskeri, 1970; Demoulin, 1972).
Close agreement between the two methods was found
(Coppa and Macchiarelli, 1982; Coppa et al., 1990). Age
was determined in previous research using osteometric
and dental characteristics (Coppa and Macchiarelli, 1982)
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
122
V.S. SPARACELLO ET AL.
TABLE 1. Composition of the Alfedena Iron Age sample
Specimen no.
Sex
1
3
4
5
6
9
18
19
21
35
36
39
40
41
53
66
67
68
73
78
82
83
84
86
88
89
90
91
97
98
102
105
109
112
114
115
116
117
119
121
126
130
132
8
10
37
49
65
69
70
76
79
93
110
113
118
122
124
127
128
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
a
TABLE 2. Composition of the Ligurian Neolithic sample
Right humerus Left humerus Femur Tibia
–
–
Xa
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
X
–
Xa
X
–
X
X
X
Xa
X
X
–
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
–
X
X
Xa
X
X
–
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Xa
–
–
X
Xa
X
X
X
X
–
–
X
X
X
–
X
–
X
X
–
–
X
–
Xa
–
X
Xa
X
X
–
X
X
Xa
X
–
X
–
Xa
Xa
X
X
–
X
X
Xa
–
–
X
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
–
–
X
X
Xa
X
Xa
X
–
–
–
Xa
–
–
X
X
–
X
X
X
–
X
X
–
–
–
–
–
–
X
X
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
–
–
–
–
X
X
X
X
X
–
–
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
–
X
–
X
X
X
X
–
X
X
–
–
–
X
X
–
X
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
–
X
–
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
–
X
X
X
Humerus with head damage (see text).
following Miles (1963), Acsadi and Nemeskeri (1970), and
Masset (1971), and by the analysis of vertical sections of
humeral and femoral heads (Nemeskeri et al., 1960).
To be positioned on the reference planes following Ruff
and Hayes (1983) and Ruff (2002), bones must be fairly
complete and present epiphyses in good condition. As a
result, only 60 individuals (43 males and 17 females)
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
Specimen no.
Sex
Arene Candide 2 Tiné
Arene Candide 7
Arene Candide 8
Arene Candide EVI
Arene Candide IX
Arene Candide XIIIb
Arma dell’Aquila 2b
Bergeggi 2b
Bergeggi 3b
Bergeggi 4b
Cavernetta Boragni 2b
Pollera 10
Pollera 13
Pollera 22
Pollera 30
Pollera 32b
Pollera 6246
Arene Candide EVI
Arene Candide XII
Arma dell’Aquila 1
Arma dell’Aquila V
Bergeggi 5b
Cavernetta Boragni 1b
Pollera 12
Pollera 14
Pollera 1 Tiné
Pollera 33
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Male
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
Female
a
b
Right
Left
humerus humerus Femur Tibia
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Xa
Xa
X
X
X
X
X
X
Xa
X
X
Xa
Xa
Xa
X
X
X
X
X
Xa
Xa
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Humerus with head damage (see text).
Individual added in this research.
could be studied in this research, and not all bones were
available for all individuals (Table 1). Thus, the samples
evaluated for different locations and in different analyses
(e.g., humeral bilateral asymmetry vs. humeral robusticity) were often not composed by the same individuals.
This may potentially introduce noise into the results. The
Ligurian Neolithic sample includes 10 additional individuals that augment the series used in previous research
(Marchi, 2008; Sparacello and Marchi, 2008), for a total of
27 (17 males and 10 females, Table 2).
Polysiloxane molds of the periosteal contour were
taken at mid-distal humerus (35% bone length from the
distal end), and midshaft femur and tibia (50% bone
length), using bone lengths defined by Ruff (2002). When
present, both humeri were sampled to evaluate the
degree of upper limb asymmetry. Since the lower limb
does not present significant lateralization (Auerbach and
Ruff, 2004), only the right side was sampled when available, the left otherwise.
Cross-sectional properties were calculated using a version of the program SLICE (Nagurka and Hayes, 1980),
provided by Dr. Michael Black and adapted as a macro
routine inserted in Scion Image release Beta 4.03. The
variable expressing overall diaphyseal robusticity discussed in this study is calculated from the polar second
moment of area J, corresponding to the torsional and
(twice) average bending rigidity of the beam, raised to
the power of 0.73 (Ruff, 1995, 2000b). The value of J0.73
is proportional to the section modulus (Zp), which can be
more precisely calculated dividing J by the average radius of the section. Although J0.73 is proportional to
rather than strictly equivalent to Zp, we will refer to it
as Zp, as done in previous research (e.g., Maggiano
et al., 2008).
123
CSG CHANGES WITH IRON AGE SUBSISTENCE SHIFT
TABLE 3. Skeletal samples used to construct the regression equations
Humeri
Femora
Tibiae
Method
Reference
Ligurian
Neolithic
30
16
13
Latex Cast Methoda
Noli
Medieval
Alfedena
Iron Age
Neuburg Medieval
42
21
15
Direct sectioning
Marchi et al., 2006;
Marchi, 2008;
Sparacello and Marchi, 2008
Sparacello and Marchi, 2008,
and unpublished data
Bondioli et al., 1986;
Macchiarelli, 1988
Marchi, 2004
a
Fibulae
30
Direct sectioning
37
Latex Cast Method
O’Neill and Ruff, 2004.
TABLE 4. Regression equations used to predict actual cross-sectional geometric properties from the periosteal section
Model parameters and coefficients
c
J
Imax/Imind
Ix/Iye
Error
n
r2
Slope
Intercept
P
%SEEa
Mean absolute PPEb
204
174
173
0.999
0.996
0.994
0.994
1.012
1.001
20.002
20.007
20.0035
0.0000
0.0000
0.0000
4.07%
1.74%
1.85%
2.85%
1.26%
1.37%
%SEE 5 exp (SEE 1 4.6052) 2 100; based on natural log-transformed data (Ruff, 2003).
Absolute PPE 5(|estimate 2 true|/true) 3 100. Based on back-transformed natural log estimated and natural log true values.
c
ln J vs. ln periosteal J.
d
ln Imax/Imin vs. ln periosteal Imax/Imin.
e
ln Ix/Iy vs. ln periosteal Ix/Iy.
a
b
The mechanical loading on long bones is a function of
physical activity, bone length, and body mass (Ruff,
2000b). To isolate the effects of activity, the estimate of
overall bone strength Zp was scaled for size dividing by
bone mechanical length and body mass (Ruff, 2000b).
Body mass was estimated in both samples from the femoral head superoinferior diameter (FH) using the formula from Grine et al. (1995). Unstandardized J was
used to calculate humeral asymmetry.
Given their correspondence with mobility levels in the
lower limb, we will also discuss shape indices. For the femur, we consider both the ratio of Imax (maximum second
moment of area) to Imin, (minimum second moment of
area), and the ratio between Ix (second moment of area in
the anterior–posterior plane) and Iy (second moment of
area in the medio-lateral plane). In the tibia, the shape
index Ix/Iy may be difficult to measure precisely due to
the more problematic positioning of this bone. Therefore,
only the shape index Imax/Imin will be discussed.
In the Alfedena sample, and for the Ligurian individuals added in this research (Table 2), CSG properties were
estimated from periosteal contours using regression equations. The method is derived from the recent research of
Stock and Shaw (2007), who analyzed the relationship
between actual polar second moment of area (J) and
shape indices (Imax/Imin and Ix/Iy) and a section’s external
dimensions (diameters, circumference, subperiosteal area,
and periosteal Imax/Imin and Ix/Iy). Their research demonstrated that subperiosteal area and periosteal shape indices can predict actual J and actual shape indices reasonably well. To obtain CSG properties from the mould of the
periosteal contour, we developed similar equations based
on actual CSG properties (hollow bone) and periosteal
contour (solid bone), using data from skeletal samples
previously studied by the authors (Table 3). We decided to
develop our own equations, instead of using the ones published by Stock and Shaw, to minimize the error involved
in estimating true cross-sectional properties from external
dimensions. Our equations are based on skeletal samples
that are geographically, temporally, and genetically the
closest to the Alfedena sample among the CSG data available. Moreover, we could include in the regression equation 30 femora of the Alfedena sample that were sectioned
at midshaft for previous investigations (Bondioli et al.,
1986). Of these 30 femora, 23 are the contralateral side of
the individuals studied here. Data from the remaining
seven femora were not included in this study because the
protocol used for positioning did not strictly correspond to
the guidelines provided in Ruff and Hayes (1983) and
Ruff (2002).
We tested the regression method using the equations
based on the Ligurian Neolithic and Noli Medieval samples on the Alfedena sectioned femora used as a control
sample. We concluded that using bone, sex, and period
specific equations does not produce appreciable differences
in CSG estimates (Sparacello and Pearson, in press). We
therefore used here a pooled-bone, pooled-sex equation already used in a research article currently in press, which
also analyzes patterns of change in fibular robusticity
(Marchi et al., in press, and Table 4). Mean percent prediction errors obtained in the regressions, fall within the
range of error generally accepted in CSG research when
other methods to obtain cross-sections are used (Stock,
2002; O’Neill and Ruff, 2004; Stock and Shaw, 2007).
In the Alfedena sample, 15 individuals had a damaged
humeral head (Table 1). In these cases, the bone’s length
(necessary to locate the 35% level) was estimated from
the length of the humerus of the contralateral side using
a regression equation calibrated on the rest of the sample (R2 5 0.923). The same procedure was applied in previous research to the eight individuals of the Neolithic
sample presenting humeral head damage (R2 5 0.974),
(Sparacello and Marchi, 2008).
Statistical evaluation of differences in humeral, femoral, and tibial robusticity between the Alfedena and Neolithic samples was generally carried out using the Student’s t test. When the subsample under examination
showed significant deviation from normality (Lilliefors
test), the nonparametric Mann-Whitney U tests were
used. The same tests were used to evaluate differences
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
124
V.S. SPARACELLO ET AL.
TABLE 5. Differences among periods and sexes in humeral robusticity (Zp)
Ligurian Neolithic
Males
Right
Left
Females
Right
Left
Differences between sexesc
Right
Left
Alfedena Iron Age
Mean (n)
SD
Mean (n)
SD
Difference between periods
52.23a (14)
50.60 (14)
8.05
6.76
56.74 (35)
48.02 (30)c
8.92
6.52
NSb
NSd
43.94 (9)
43.16 (8)
5.34
4.75
48.28 (12)
47.16 (10)
7.97
7.44
NSb
NSb
P \ 0.01b
P \ 0.01b
P \ 0.01b
NSd
Zp (J0.73) is standardized dividing by the product of body mass and bone mechanical length.
Student’s t test.
c
Lilliefors normality test significant (a 5 0.05).
d
Mann-Whitney U test.
a
b
TABLE 6. Differences among periods and sexes in humeral bilateral asymmetry
Ligurian Neolithic
Alfedena Iron Age
Median (n)
Median (n)
18.52a (13)
3.46 (8)
P \ 0.05d
24.3 (28)b
10.57 (10)b
P \ 0.01c
Males
Females
Difference between sexesc
Difference between periods
P \ 0.05c
P \ 0.05c
BA 5 Bilateral asymmetry calculated as: [((J max 2 J min)/J min) 3 100]. Nonstandardized J used for calculation.
Lilliefors normality test significant (a 5 0.05).
c
Mann-Whitney U test.
d
Student’s t test.
a
b
TABLE 7. Humeral bilateral asymmetry of nonstandardized
polar moment of inertia (J) among different human groups
Median
(n)a
Males
Middle Upper Paleolithicb
Late Upper Paleolithicb
Ligurian Neolithic
Alfedena Iron Age
Ligurian Medieval
Fishergate Medievalc
Amerindian Georgia Coastd
Modern Euroamericanb
Tennis playersd
Females
Middle Upper Paleolithic
Late Upper Paleolithic
Ligurian Neolithic
Alfedena Iron Age
Ligurian Medieval
Amerindian Georgia Coast
Modern Euroamerican
Tennis players
Upper and
lower quartiles
58.7
51.2
18.52
24.3
12.53
20.28
9.90
7.5
74.56
(7)
(9)
(13)
(28)
(10)
(19)
(19)
(19)
(34)
39.9–96.4
45.7–97.4
6.04–24.65
15.30–42.83
4.02–17.13
8.03–26.29
–
3.1–21.8
–
27.3
22.3
3.46
10.57
6.78
4.94
11.7
39.14
(2)
(5)
(8)
(10)
(8)
(18)
(19)
(11)
2.4–27.3
14.5–23.6
1.74–10.80
8.83–17.03
1.31–10.15
–
3.0–19.4
–
Bilateral asymmetry calculated as: [((max 2 min)/min) 3 100].
Data from Churchill et al., 2000.
Data provided by Dr. Jill Rhodes.
d
Data from Trinkaus et al., 1994.
a
RESULTS
Humerus
Tables 5 and 6 report temporal differences in humeral
cross-sectional robusticity, bilateral asymmetry, and sexual dimorphism. Humeral robusticity (Zp) standardized
for body size shows no changes among temporal periods
in either sex. Within temporal period, sexual dimorphism (males more robust) is significant on both sides in
the Neolithic sample and on the right side in the Alfedena sample (Table 5).
When compared to their Neolithic counterparts, both
sexes of the Alfedena sample show significantly higher
bilateral asymmetry in nonstandardized robusticity (Table 6). Males are significantly more lateralized than
females for humeral J in both the Neolithic and Alfedena
samples (Table 6).
Table 7 compares bilateral asymmetry in CSG robusticity among different human groups. The male Alfedena
sample is the most lateralized after Paleolithic huntergatherers and tennis players; Alfedena females show a
level of lateralization comparable to modern industrialized people.
b
c
in percentage data such as sexual dimorphism and bilateral asymmetry. Statistical analyses were performed
with STATISTICA 7 (Statsoft, 2004).
In addition to the samples studied here, broader comparisons of humeral bilateral asymmetry use data kindly
provided by Dr. Jill Rhodes or drawn from the literature
(Trinkaus et al., 1994; Churchill et al., 2000).
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
Lower limb
Table 8 reports temporal differences in femoral crosssectional properties and sexual dimorphism. No significant difference in cross-sectional robusticity is present
among temporal group in either sex. However, the Alfedena sample (both sexes) has lower shape indices, and
the difference is significant for male Imax/Imin and Ix/Iy
and female Ix/Iy.
Femoral sexual dimorphism in the Alfedena sample is
not significant for either robusticity or shape values.
125
CSG CHANGES WITH IRON AGE SUBSISTENCE SHIFT
TABLE 8. Differences among periods and sexes in diaphyseal geometric properties of femora
Ligurian Neolithic
Males
Zp
Imax/Imin
Ix/Iy
Females
Zp
Imax/Imin
Ix/Iy
Differences between sexesc
Zp
Imax/Imin
Ix/Iy
Alfedena Iron Age
Mean (n)
SD
Mean (n)
SD
Difference between periods
96.56a (14)
1.49 (14)
1.34 (13)
13.75
0.23
0.2
100.11 (27)b
1.21 (27)
1.03 (27)
11.89
0.13
0.14
NSc
P \ 0.0001d
P \ 0.00001d
94.31 (10)
1.26 (10)
1.21 (10)
12.97
0.18
0.21
90.65 (15)
1.18 (15)b
0.95 (15)
16.64
0.14
0.15
NSd
NSc
P \ 0.01d
NSd
P \ 0.05d
NSd
NSc
NSc
NSd
Zp (J0.73) is standardized dividing by the product of body mass and bone mechanical length.
Lilliefors normality test significant (a 5 0.05).
c
Mann-Whitney U test.
d
Student’s t test.
a
b
TABLE 9. Differences among periods and sexes in diaphyseal geometric properties of tibiae
Ligurian Neolithic
Males
Zp
Imax/Imin
Females
Zp
Imax/Imin
Differences between sexesc
Zpc,d
Imax/Imin
Alfedena Iron Age
Mean (n)
SD
Mean (n)
SD
Difference between periodsa
105.07a (15)
2.53 (15)
13.97
0.44
94.52 (33)
2.27 (33)
9.95
0.37
P \ 0.01b
P \ 0.05b
93.59 (10)
2.20 (10)
12.1
0.26
84.13 (14)
1.96 (14)c
16.35
0.43
NSb
P \ 0.05d
P \ 0.1b
P \ 0.05b
P \ 0.05b
P \ 0.01d
a
Zp (J0.73) is standardized dividing by the product of body mass and bone mechanical length.
Student’s t test.
c
Lilliefors normality test significant (a 5 0.05).
d
Mann-Whitney U test.
b
Neolithic males show higher shape indices than females.
Probably due to small sample size, the difference is significant for Imax/Imin and not for Ix/Iy.
Table 9 reports temporal differences in tibial cross-sectional properties and sexual dimorphism. Both sexes of
the Alfedena sample show lower robusticity and shape
indices when compared to their Neolithic counterparts.
The difference is statistically significant for male Zp
adjusted for body size, and for Imax/Imin in both sexes.
Differences between sexes within temporal period generally include higher Zp adjusted for body size and
Imax/Imin in males. The difference is statistically significant for the Ligurian Neolithic’s Imax/Imin (P \ 0.1 in Zp,
probably due to the small sample size), and for both Zp
and Imax/Imin in the Alfedena sample.
DISCUSSION
Humerus
The lateralization index quantifies the higher mechanical strength of the dominant arm, because of its preferential use in stressful activities. Modern industrialized
people are considered here to show asymmetry values
because of the physiological handedness in a context of
absence of stressful activities, either unimanual or bimanual. This average value of asymmetry is not equal to
zero, but between 8 and 12% (Trinkaus et al., 1994;
Shaw and Stock, 2009). In the context of generally
higher robusticity in preindustrial with respect to industrialized samples, lower asymmetry values in preindustrial samples can be considered as indicative of stressful
bimanual tasks and higher values indicative of stressful
asymmetric activities. High lateralization is common in
groups whose behavioral repertoire included frequent
and stressful unimanual tasks like asymmetric sports
and throwing activities (Trinkaus et al., 1994; Churchill
et al., 2000; Shaw and Stock, 2009). As noted by Churchill et al. (1996) and Rhodes and Knüsel (2005), the high
loading rates and intermittent character of training correspond to the pattern of activities that best stimulate
osteogenic response (Burr et al., 2002; Robling et al.,
2002). Previous research demonstrated the higher robusticity of the Neolithic Ligurian people relative to other
agricultural and industrialized groups (Sparacello and
Marchi, 2008). The Alfedena sample shows within-sexes
humeral robusticity comparable to Neolithic people. This
suggests that both groups conducted a lifestyle placing
high levels of mechanical stresses on the upper limb. It
is therefore likely that their level of humeral asymmetry
is a consequence of stressful activity patterns.
Alfedena males are greatly lateralized, significantly
more so than Neolithic males. The remarkable level of
asymmetry in Neolithic males was attributed to land
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
126
V.S. SPARACELLO ET AL.
clearing for agriculture, which in horticultural societies
is a male activity (Ehrenberg, 1989). Since Liguria lacks
natural pastures, it has been proposed that tree pollarding was practiced to procure branches, twigs, and leaves
which constituted additional fodder to herds, as demonstrated by micromorphological soil analyses (Macphail
et al., 1997; Maggi and Nisbet, 2000). Small eclogite
stone hatchets characterize Neolithic layers from Liguria, and wear patterns indicate that they were used for
woodworking (Starnini and Voytek, 1997).
Among Alfedena people, manual deforestation was not
a common activity because their multicrop agriculture
had advanced well beyond the slash and burn stage.
Herds were moved between seasonal pastures, and providing fodder through tree pollarding was not necessary.
Despite this, Alfedena males show higher lateralization,
which is therefore likely not due to hatchet use. When
compared with other human groups, Alfedena males are
about three times more asymmetric than modern Euroamericans and are the most lateralized after professional
tennis players and Paleolithic hunters. However, Alfedena values are very distant from the values expressed
by tennis players, and are about half of the values
shown by Paleolithic hunters, whose activity patterns
include the most extreme degree of preferential use of
the dominant arm, most likely because their hunting
strategy was based on hand-thrown projectile weapons
(Trinkaus et al., 1994; Churchill et al., 1996, 2000). The
level of asymmetry at Alfedena seems comparable to—
yet somewhat higher than—the pattern shown by the
medieval Fishergate group (Rhodes and Knüsel, 2005).
Other similarities between the two samples include the
presence of swords as grave goods, and a high incidence
of perimortal sword wounds in the skeletal series. In the
Medieval period relevant to the Fishergate sample, English legal proclamations prescribed that every man was
required to have and be proficient in some weapon type,
according to their social status (Rhodes and Knüsel,
2005). Given the shared characteristics between the two
samples, it is therefore likely that their similar level of
asymmetry is due to frequent weapon training. Thus,
Alfedena males’ high humeral asymmetry corroborates
the hypothesis that weapon training was a common activity among Iron Age males, and fits with the reconstruction of a warlike society in which such prestige
activities were part of the habitual behavioral repertoire.
The lateralization of the female Alfedena sample is
similar to the modern industrialized sample. This,
coupled with the high robusticity values shown by this
group, suggests a balanced presence of unimanual and
bimanual stressful activities. When compared with Neolithic females, Alfedena females show a significantly
higher lateralization. We suggest that this pattern is the
skeletal corroboration of the changes in cereal processing
technology inferred from archaeology. Cross-culturally,
processing vegetable foods is a female activity (Ehrenberg, 1989). In the Neolithic, cereal grinding was performed by means of bimanual grinding stones, and most
likely took hours every day (Robb, 2007). This strenuous
and time-consuming task placed equally high mechanical
loads on females’ upper limbs, and contributed to generate an average level of asymmetry close to zero (Marchi
et al., 2006; Sparacello and Marchi, 2008). A correlation
between manual cereal grinding and female low asymmetry has been found also in other researches (Bridges
et al., 2000; Weiss, 2009). In the Iron Age, cereal processing was performed mainly through the use of animalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
driven querns (Lynch and Rowland, 2005). This made
the use of bimanual querns for cereal processing less
common, resulting in a female level of asymmetry close
to the one shown by modern sedentary samples. However, the high level of robusticity in Alfedena females—
comparable to the one shown by Neolithic females—suggests a balanced presence of stressful unimanual and
bimanual activities, rather than absence of stressful
activities. This result contradicts our expectation that
Alfedena females should have shown lower robusticity
when compared to Neolithic females, and hints that in
the Iron Age certain subsistence-related activities—such
as textile production, food processing, and possibly other
hitherto unrecognized tasks—placed a high degree of
mechanical stress on female upper limbs.
Lower limb
Abruzzo and Liguria are both very mountainous areas;
comparisons between the two groups factor out the possible influence of terrain on lower limb robusticity (Ruff,
1999). According to Ruff (2000a), once the influence of
terrain is factored out, the effect of different subsistence
activities on femoral robusticity greatly declines. Since
the Ligurian and Alfedena people shared the part of
their behavioral repertoires related to pastoral and agricultural activities, it is not surprising that their femoral
robusticity values are similar within sexes between temporal groups.
In contrast to femoral torsional robusticity, the shape
of lower limb midshaft sections may correlate better
with mobility levels (i.e., daily travel). Biomechanical
studies show that activities such as climbing and running cause high AP bending loads from the femoral to
the tibial midshaft (e.g., Burr et al., 1996). Therefore, elliptical-shaped (and AP-oriented) lower limb midshafts
are often considered characteristic of highly mobile populations. Bioarchaeological research is consistent with
this framework, showing that lower limb shape indices
correlate with mobility patterns (Ruff, 1999; Holt, 2003;
Stock, 2006).
In addition to lower limb shape indices, tibial robusticity also shows a correlation with mobility. This is likely
due to the fact that distal elements show greater mass
optimization between tissue economy and safety factors
(Stock, 2006). Thus, it is expected that more sedentary
groups will have on average lower shape indices in the
femur and tibia, and lower tibial robusticity when compared to mobile groups.
Archaeological and historical evidence strongly suggests that in both groups under examination ovine stockbreeding was the most important economic activity,
while agriculture was a marginal activity (Salmon, 1967;
Marchi et al., 2006; Sparacello and Marchi, 2008;
D’Errico, personal communication). However, we predicted a decrease in average mobility in the Alfedena
sample because of the theoretical expectation of alterations in activity patterns due to Iron Age socio-economic
changes. Results indicate that ratio of (average male)/
(average female) femoral Ix/Iy is 1.11 in the Ligurians,
and 1.08 in the Alfedena sample. These values fall in the
range near the ‘‘transition’’ between hunter-gatherers
and agriculturalists, as measured in a number of samples (Ruff, 2008). This reflects the mixed subsistence
economy of both our samples, and as expected the Alfedena value is slightly lower. The difference in mobility
patterns between the two periods is more apparent when
CSG CHANGES WITH IRON AGE SUBSISTENCE SHIFT
analyzing within-sexes comparisons: in the Alfedena
group all CSG indicators of mobility are lower when
compared to the sex-matched Neolithic samples, and
most differences are statistically significant. Both femoral and tibial properties depict a coherent scenario of
decreased mobility in Alfedena males and females with
respect to their Neolithic counterparts.
Results therefore confirm the theoretical expectations of
socio-economic changes in the Iron Age: the economic importance of herding among the Alfedena people did not
result in a mobile lifestyle at a population level, at least
when compared to the Neolithic. This is likely due to two
contributing factors. Although there is little emphasis on
agriculture in the Samnite archaeological and historical
record, due to demographic pressure, agricultural and
pastoral intensification led to a more sedentary lifestyle
overall in comparison to the Neolithic. Cross-culturally,
with the shift from ‘‘hoe and the digging stick’’ horticulture typical of the Neolithic to ‘‘plough and oxen’’ agriculture typical of later periods, males took over most of the
sedentary agricultural tasks. At the same time, the intensive exploitation of secondary animal products among
Samnites led to an increase of time-consuming and sedentary activities such as textile production, which were generally performed by females (Ehrenberg, 1989).
Moreover, the degree to which people were involved in
the high-mobility tasks typical of herding may have been
different in the two groups under examination. Although
both groups compared here can be broadly defined as
pastoral (Chang and Koster, 1986), their subsistence
probably took different forms, resulting in less average
mobility in the Iron Age. In the Neolithic, short-range
transhumance of small flocks was integrated into an agricultural-based subsistence economy. Herding was part
of a complex of shared habitual subsistence activities
which involved each member of the village more or less
equally (Robb, 2007). This contributed to greater average
mobility in the population, especially in males who usually took care of herding (Dyson-Hudson and DysonHudson, 1980). In the Iron Age, transhumance functioned as part of a capitalistic market economy forming
the base of aristocracy’s wealth (Robb, 1994a). Pastoralism was performed by a small subset of specialized herders, and become a distinct and separated activity with
respect to farming activities (Bonte, 1981; Chang and
Koster, 1986). This process was still incipient in the
short-distance, vertical transhumance of Alfedena Samnites, and become fully developed only later, after Roman
conquest (Salmon, 1967; Palasciano, 1999; D’Ercole, personal communication). However, our results showing
lower indicators of mobility in males with respect to the
Neolithic are compatible with a scenario where only a
small subset of the male population was involved in the
moving of herds to the pastures. This leads to lower average indicators of mobility at a population level,
because mobile individuals are less likely to be sampled.
The inclusion in the sample of individuals that performed high mobility tasks (herders in this case) should
result in high variability in the male lower limb shape
indices. Past research detected increased variability in
femoral midshaft Ix/Iy in the Native American population
of La Florida due to postcontact forced labor, which
resulted in increased variation in activity patterns (Ruff
and Larsen, 2001). In our comparisons, male SD in
shape indices is lower when compared with their Neolithic counterpart. A possible explanation for this result
is that few if any herders were sampled in our research.
127
Sexual dimorphism
Differences in gender roles and behavior typical of the
Western world had its roots in the Neolithic (Ehrenberg,
1989). Most ethnoanthropological studies of pastoral
societies evidence males’ involvement in herding activities, while women’s activities appear to be mainly
domestic (childcare, household activities), agricultural,
and involving the processing of secondary products (see
Dyson-Hudson and Dyson-Hudson, 1980). On this basis,
sexual dimorphism in skeletal properties is expected to
be detectable in both samples compared here.
The Italian Neolithic ideology appears to have been
weakly genderized. The similarity in grave goods
between sexes suggests that the Neolithic culture conceptualized gender as an opposition between balanced
and complementary factors (Robb, 1994b, 2007). Some
evidence of space genderization consists in male-associated imagery located in the periphery of occupational
areas, while the female focus appears to have been closer
to villages. Male activities probably included hunting
and herding further afield, while females were more
involved in activities performed close to the village, such
as food processing, gathering, and agriculture (Robb,
1994b, 2007). This suggests greater male mobility in an
overall mobile context.
In horticultural societies, in which hoes or digging sticks
are used for seeding, women are usually almost wholly responsible for agriculture, while men perform land clearing
(Ehrenberg, 1989). This should generate males with more
robust and lateralized humeri, and that is especially true
in Liguria, where manual deforestation practices were important for both land clearing and fodder procurement.
Sexual dimorphism in CSG properties of the Ligurian Neolithic group has been discussed elsewhere (Marchi et al.,
2006; Sparacello and Marchi, 2008; Marchi, 2008). The
present analysis including additional individuals substantially confirms previous findings, and corroborates the
above expectations. Males are significantly more robust
and lateralized than females; moreover, males show some
evidence of greater mobility (significantly higher femoral
Imax/Imin, higher tibial Zp, and significantly higher tibial
Imax/Imin) in a generally mobile group.
The ideology of Alfedena people was strongly genderized. The aristocratic stratification of Iron Age protostate societies was held together by moral coalitions
based on class and gender (Robb, 1994b). According to
the masculine ideal celebrated in material art through
paintings, and in literature, males were involved in all
the activities where animal tenure was involved, which
included plough agriculture. Moreover, weapon possession and use were male prestige-related activities. The
feminine role in such a gendered society consisted of performing fine handiwork in seclusion (Robb, 1994b).
Accordingly, Iron Age female burials were marked by
spindle whorls, suggesting that wool processing constituted a great part of their activity repertoire (Bartoloni,
1988; Bietti Sestieri, 1993). However, Samnites followed
a rough peasant life, and only a small subset of wealthy
women could have afforded to perform light jobs such as
fine handcrafting (Robb, 1994b). As suggested also by
the high level of humeral robusticity in absolute terms
shown by Alfedena females, most of the women were
likely involved in the stressful and time-consuming—yet
sedentary—tasks typical of secondary products processing, including vegetable and animal food processing, and
weaving.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
128
V.S. SPARACELLO ET AL.
Results obtained in this research are consistent with
the non-CSG based reconstruction: males show statistically significantly higher lateralization, and significantly
more robust right humeri. This is consistent with the
hypothesized frequent weapon training among males.
Lower mobility in the female sample is suggested by significantly lower average tibial robusticity and shape
index. The femoral indicators of mobility are not significantly different between sexes. This is likely due to the
fact that the Alfedena group was sedentary, and therefore femoral shape indices are close to circularity. Tibial
indicators of mobility allow for a greater range of differences between groups, being based on robusticity measures and on shapes normally far from circularity. A
greater sensitivity of tibial CSG properties to variations
in mobility levels may also be due to the fact that the
distal limb segment is less influenced by variations in
body shape (Ruff et al., 2006a), and shows greater optimization for tissue economy (Stock, 2006). Alfedena
females therefore show evidence of being very sedentary
in an overall nonmobile population.
CONCLUSIONS
The biomechanical analysis of the Alfedena skeletal series corroborated our expectations about subsistence
changes for the shift from Neolithic to Iron Age societies.
The comparison of Alfedena people with a group from earlier prehistory with similar subsistence base provided an
example of how increased socio-economic complexity contributes in determining changes in the habitual behavior
of agropastoral groups. Although archaeological and
historical evidence stress the economic importance of pastoralism among Samnites, we expected a decrease in mobility when compared to the Neolithic due to agricultural
intensification and incipient pastoral specialization.
Accordingly, lower limb robusticity and shape indices in
the later population mirror a decrease in the average level
of mobility in both males and females, which is consistent
with an economic system in which high mobility pastoral
tasks were performed by a small subset of the population,
and most people were less mobile.
The analysis of upper limb robusticity and asymmetry
confirmed that males performed stressful unimanual
activities, which produces skeletal evidence supporting
frequent weapon training, a prestige-related male activity typical of Iron Age warlike societies. The increase in
female lateralization with respect to the Neolithic likely
mirrors the shift from manual to animal-driven cereal
processing. The remarkable sexual dimorphism in both
upper and lower limb CSG properties mirrors a genderized society, where males performed most of the production and status-related activities and females were relegated to time-consuming sedentary tasks.
Results of the comparison of cross-sectional properties
provided skeletal quantitative data on the above parameters, which can be used to construct a comparative
framework for other prehistoric groups. This allows for
further explorations of subtle differences in the behavioral adaptations of agricultural and pastoral groups due
to changing environments, and socio-economic levels of
complexity.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors thank Robert R. Paine for suggesting the
idea for this study. Thanks to Jill Rhodes for providing
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
her raw data on the Fishergate sample and for useful
comments during the writing of this article. Heather
Edgar, Roberto Macchiarelli, Martin Muller, and Sherry
Nelson provided valuable comments during the writing
of the article. Domenico Mancinelli was very helpful during data collection at L’Aquila. They thank Vincenzo
D’Ercole, Inspector Archaeologist for the Abruzzo
Region, for providing useful information about Alfedena
archeological context and Samnite subsistence. Thanks
to the two anonymous reviewers and to the editor of this
journal for the useful comments that significantly
improved the earliest version of this article.
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