Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Shimada, Izumi


This doctoral thesis examines complex burial behaviors as ritualized responses to changing sociopolitical landscapes just prior to a warring-states period and emergence of Rome as world power. A multivariate statistical approach investigates skeletal estimations of biological kinship (“biodistance”) and its role in the burial and social organizational practices of two central Italian Iron Age (1000-27 BC) groups: Pentri Samnites from Alfedena Campo Consolino (600-400 BC, L’Aquila, Abruzzo) and Pretuzi from Campovalano (750-100 BC, Teramo, Abruzzo). Despite missing data and sample imbalances, these are two of the largest, best-preserved, and generally contemporaneous Iron Age series spanning prehistoric, protohistoric, and historic periods. Alfedena Campo Consolino is a special subsection of a broader burial area and Campovalano represents a nearly complete necropolis. Most data from these Iron Age semi-transhumant agropastoralists comes from mortuary rather than settlement contexts. Thus, burial location is a central archaeological theme because of its potential to indicate corporate land ownership, group permanence, and identity. However, burial areas tended to be structured by family lineages and the similar material cultures they contain confound detailed discernment of the social identities encoded within the graves. I test the hypothesis that the mountainous and economically less-incorporated Pentri Samnites at Alfedena Campo Consolino will have stronger associations between biological and burial distances due to greater emphasis on biological kinship organization of the deceased. On the other hand, I expect that the Pretuzi from Campovalano will be more phenotypically variable as a result of broader ideas of kinship due to further economic and social reaches. To test these hypotheses, Mantel tests were used to examine the strength of association between biological similarity and spatial proximity of burials. Also, multidimensional scaling and univariate and multivariate analyses of variance were performed on data subgrouped by burial location, sex, time period, head position, and clothes brooch frequencies. Distribution of widely found funerary items, brooches, were examined in-depth for the potential that they varied spatially with biological patterns of variation as a marker of biological group membership. In general, I think brooches were well-made, distinctive, and highly visible indicators of wearers’ social position and identity. Male faces and cranial bases at Alfedena Campo Consolino and female multivariate tooth row measures at Campovalano produce the most noticeable signals. Because samples differ so greatly in their compositions and sizes, results of this study cannot specify if ACC was organized by biological kinship to a greater degree than CMV. Instead, results are interpreted in terms of the idea that a greater diversity of burial and social organization existed in Iron Age central Italy than previously thought. This research constitutes an important advance in evaluation of the spatial dimension of mortuary practices and social identity formation during an unstable time, and novel biodistance approaches such as those developed in this thesis should be considered as additional lines of evidence for comprehensive mortuary analyses.




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