Bioarchaeology of the human remains of the so-called “sailor” from the site of the ancient ships of Pisa - San Rossore

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Francesco Mallegni
Chiara Tesi
Stefano Ricci


Roman port, wrecks, Pisa, human remains, bioarchaeology, taphonomy, sailor


The biological and taphonomic aspects of a human skeleton found along with that of a dog in Area 3 of the so-called Roman harbour of Pisa-San Rossore are here examined. Starting from 1998, in addition to other wrecks, the so-called “ship B” was brought to light. During the excavation, the skeletons of the so-called “sailor” and a dog were discovered under the loading, probably due to the sinking of the ship following a storm. Biological analyses of the human remains, carried out at the time of the discovery, revealed that they belonged to a male individual, who died when he was about 35-45 years old. The shape and strength of its skeletal structure, especially the muscular impressions of the limbs and the particular remodelling of the metatarsals and the phalanges of the feet, tended to confirm the hypothesis of his seafaring activity. Moreover, according to statistical analysis, the cranial shape falls within those of the ancient Pompeian population.  The positions of the two skeletons, at the time of their highlighting, lead to the presumption of a sinking dynamic of the ship and of its loading more articulated with respect to what has been said and written so far. The present article aims to summarise the anthropological studies carried out on the sailor, throwing a new light on the taphonomic aspects of the discovery of the skeletal remains and reinterpreting the deposition and decomposition modalities of the two individuals.

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