Social differentiation and well‑being in the Italian Iron Age: exploring the relationship between sex, age, biological stress, and burial complexity among the Picenes of Novilara (8th–7th c. BC)
MetadataShow full item record
Non-specific stress markersFunerary treatmentStatureIron agePicene culture
Laffranchi, Z... [et al.]. Social differentiation and well-being in the Italian Iron Age: exploring the relationship between sex, age, biological stress, and burial complexity among the Picenes of Novilara (8th–7th c. BC). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 13, 182 (2021). [https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-021-01449-3]
SponsorshipFondazione Scavolini (Italy)
The possible association between “biological” and “social” status in the past is a central topic in bioarchaeological studies. For the Italian Iron Age, previous research comparing skeletal and funerary variables depicts a multifaceted scenario consistent with nuanced biocultural patterns. This calls for additional studies on a broader series of archaeological contexts and skeletal assemblages. Here, we contribute new data about the biological correlates of social differentiation during the Italian Iron Age by comparing paleopathological and funerary variables in the Picene necropolis of Novilara (Marche region, 8th–7th c. BC). Novilara is one of the largest Picene necropolises in the Italian Peninsula and one of the most important funerary sites of the Italian Iron Age. The skeletal sample includes 147 individuals (females: 70; males: 35; 10 unsexed adults; 32 non-adults). We use linear enamel hypoplasia, cribra orbitalia, porotic hyperostosis, non-specific periosteal lesions, and stature to approximate non-specific stressors and compare them with archaeological variables summarizing funerary variability by means of logistic models, Mann–Whitney and Spearman tests. Results are heterogeneous and vary according to the considered variables. On average, they however show that (a) adults featuring a more complex funerary treatment have a lower probability of showing stress-related skeletal changes, and (b) even though funerary features suggests a strong gender differentiation, frequencies of paleopathological variables do not differ between sexes. Our analyses point to a complex link between biological and social status in this population and call for a critical reflection about the theoretical and methodological issues affecting similar studies.