Preliminary abstract: The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD, was not the first sign of impending environmental doom for the people of the Bay of Naples, Italy. A powerful earthquake struck on February 5, 62 AD, causing widespread destruction. Tremors and a tsunami in early August also presaged the volcanic eruption. Given the precisely known date of death of people killed by Vesuvius, it is possible to use human skeletal remains and biochemical techniques to learn more about life under the Julio-Claudian and Flavian imperial dynasties in the 1st century AD, as well as about the effects of the environment on people's lives and bodies. At the circum-Vesuvian villa site of Oplontis, more than 55 sets of human remains were discovered and recently excavated from one room in a multi-use structure that doubled as a residence and an import-export wine business. As Roman life was dynamic, these skeletons can provide insight into the composition of the household, their physical responses to their environment over their life course, and the prevalence of disease in a population whose lives were ended simultaneously. The research aims for this project therefore involve: a) understanding the composition of the working class Roman household through ancient DNA analysis and historical records; b) characterizing their diet through the life course against the backdrop of significant ecological transformation; and c) investigating the diseases that were present but not obvious osteologically in the population through pathogen DNA and palaeoparasitological analyses. By focusing the bioarchaeological investigation on a population with known date of death, this research will contribute both to a further understanding of Roman social life and biological relationships in the 1st century AD and to an understanding of household adaptation to a changing natural environment.
Post-Ph.D. Research Grant
North Carolina, Chapel Hill, U. of
Killgrove, Dr. Kristina, U. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC - To aid research on 'Life Course Analysis of a Working Class Roman Household (Oplontis, Italy, 79 AD)'