Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Robert H. Tykot, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jonathan D. Bethard, Ph.D., D-ABFA

Committee Member

Diane Wallman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrea Vianello, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Zachary Atlas, Ph.D.


Bioarchaeology, Isotopes, Diet, Neolithic


The current project seeks to illuminate the diets of the earliest farming societies in central Northern Italy. Neolithic peoples who first began settling in the Central Po Valley sometime at the end of the seventh and beginning of the sixth millennium BCE forever changed the landscape from one of expanding sub-continental forests to one of intensive agricultural production and anthropogenic influence. A total of 109 individual burials from 24 separate infrastructure project excavations of 17 sites surrounding the modern city of Mantua, Italy were analyzed utilizing a biochemical approach and a bioarchaeological explanatory theoretical framework based within embodiment and life history theory. Small group life histories were produced unique to the three phases of the Middle and Late Neolithic Square-Mouthed Pottery (SMP) culture or Vasi Bocca Quadrata (VBQ) and the Chalcolithic or Copper Age Lagozza cultures that settled around Mantua. Differences and similarities in Middle Neolithic diets and mobility were explored by period and culture and among different sex and age cohorts utilizing a series of cluster, ANOVA, and discriminate function analyses. A radiocarbon chronological model was produced for the analyzed assemblage and spans from approximately 4700 cal BCE to 3100 cal BCE bridging the transition from the Early to Middle Neolithic to the Copper Age. Isotopic life histories were constructed in order to address key questions in the region regarding the subsistence strategies specific to the three phases of the SMP culture and the Lagozza. The results of the current project provide direct support to previous scholarly work in the region which has partially characterized the palaeobotanical and zooarchaeological records for the time period of interest, initially described by an intensive shift to crop agriculture and land clearance activities by the SMP. Bone and tooth root results of the current project have resulted in tight clustering of SMP individuals around known environmental and human values for C3 plant cultivars, with mean 13Cap, 13Cco, and 15N bone values of 12.8‰ ± 0.6, -20.8‰ ± 0.3, 9.9‰ ± 0.6 respectively, and mean 13Cap, 13Cco, and 15N tooth root values of -12.6‰ ± 0.9, -20.2‰ ± 0.4, 10.2‰ ± 0.7 respectively. Similarly, the Lagozza cultural groups around Mantua continued the intensive agricultural lifestyles of the SMP into the Copper Age, with an increase of only about 1.0‰ 13Cco in dietary protein source variation than what was observed in the Middle Neolithic population. Stable Oxygen isotopic analysis was also conducted in order to assess the overall mobility of individuals within the two major periods, the four cultural phases, and by sex. Slightly more individual mobility was observed in the Middle Neolithic than the Copper Age with associated 18O VSMOW mean values of -8.7‰ ± 1.3 for the Middle Neolithic and -7.3‰ ± 0.6 for the Copper Age. The results of the current study contribute to the collective scholarly understanding of the Neolithic and Copper Ages in Northern Italy and advance knowledge on the legacies wrought by contemporary Italian populations with respect to food culture, Italian identity, and landscape instability and change.