Interpreting diachronic changes and infra-contextual comparisons. The bioarchaeological archive of San Biagio in Cittiglio (Varese, Northern Italy)

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Chiara Tesi


Bioarchaeology, chronological comparison, human remains, health status, diachronic osteological variations


The medieval and post-medieval cemetery of San Biagio in Cittiglio constitutes a context of archaeological and bioarchaeological interest that is significant for the knowledge of the population that once lived in the ancient region of Valcuvia. The Romanesque church, originally built during the early Middle Ages and subsequently modified, is characterized by the presence of a well-structured cemetery context. The investigations conducted so far allowed us to examine the archaeological stratigraphy and bringing to light different phases of use of the cemetery areas.

During the study, an almost well-preserved sample emerged, albeit affected by different sources of selection today difficult to reconstruct, which make this osteoarchaeological sample a fraction of the original subset of the population. The sample analyzed was well represented by all categories of individuals, with a disproportion between adults and subadults, who died particularly in infancy between 0 and 3 years of age. This characteristic led us to think that the sample had been the subject of several processes of selection which resulted in the over-representation of subadults and the under-representation of adults.

The diachronic aspect of the cemetery, whose use extends from the 10th to the 17th century, allowed us to carry out comparative analyzes between two chronological subgroups divided according to the local and regional history of the site. The diachronic perspective has revealed the existence of differences in health status and dietary practices between the High Middle Ages and the Late and Post-Medieval Ages, highlighting how the social and political differences we are aware of thanks to historical documents can also be reflected from biological characteristics extracted from the anthropological record.

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