Ancient Cemetery Reveals Mystery Of Imperial Rome Migrants

Posted: Feb 11 2016, 7:10am CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Ancient Cemetery Reveals Mystery of Imperial Rome Migrants
Skulls of skeletons of 35 to 50-year-old males who had migrated to Rome. Credit: Kristina Killgrove
  • What was the Identity of Ancient Rome’s Migrants?

The question is what was the identity of Ancient Rome’s migrants? Some of the answers may be forthcoming after years of research.

A study shows proof of individual migrants having visited Ancient Rome during its peak point. The 2000 year old skeletons have teeth that lend credence to this thesis. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study started in the form of an investigation into twin cemeteries in Imperial Rome.

What became clear was that several men and children migrated to Rome during its heyday and they also changed their diets accordingly. The saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” applies here.

While a million citizens lived in Rome, about 5% of the population consisted of immigrants who had ventured into foreign territory. And over 40% comprised the slave population which served the rich and elite class of Romans.

The problem is that these figures are merely estimates and don’t lend themselves to viable proof in the form of any certainties. Since there was no census way back then, we cannot know for sure whether these figures are correct or not.

The quote that “All roads lead to Rome” may have some truth to it but still, science does not depend upon literary quotes alone.

In order to find direct evidence of migration to Rome, investigators examined skeletal traces dating from the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD. An analysis of the isotopes of strontium and oxygen was carried out.

Via these analyses, it was found whether the teeth of the skeletons dated to the time in Rome or to some other era and place. 105 teeth were investigated for strontium isotopes and 55 teeth were examined for oxygen isotopes.

The water from the aquaducts and the grain supplies which had been brought into Rome were also perused with quite some interest.

By the end of all the exploration, there was only a female, a few males and quite a few children who were not born in Rome. Thus they were probably migrants.

Eight people, five of whom were in their youth, were migrants from the outskirts of Rome. Their provenance was probably North Africa, the Alps and the Apennine Mountains in Italy.

The skulls and teeth of the buried people lent important clues as to whether they were the original inhabitants of Rome or people who had arrived there later on in time.

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