Introd (Italie) : La Signora di Introd, Contemporary of Oetzi?
La Signora di Introd, Contemporary of Oetzi?
Italian news is reporting the discovery of the Lady of Introd, a 5,000-year-old skeleton found near the town of Aosta in the Alps, about half-way between Geneva and Turin.
The Lady of Introd (credit: AostaOggi)
The 5,000-year-old skeleton was discovered recently in the tiny town of Introd (pop: 618), during excavation work to create an addition to a school. The skeleton has been assessed as female, and she was buried on her right side with her head facing west. No grave goods accompanied the burial. The skeleton has already been excavated and moved to a laboratory, where researchers propose to figure out age-at-death, diet, and possible causes or contributors to her death.
This area of the Italian Alps was occupied in historical times by the Salassi tribe. They were defeated and enslaved by the Romans, and the town became Augusta Praetorium Salassorum (now Aosta) in 25 BC. Prior to that, I don't know much about the area. If this skeleton can indeed be carbon-dated to the 3rd millennium BC (nowhere does it say how they assessed the skeleton at five millennia old!), it makes the Lady of Introd relatively contemporaneous with Oetzi the Iceman in the late Neolithic. A dietary analysis of the Lady of Introd would be quite interesting. Various dietary analyses done on Oetzi - whose last meals were quite well preserved - indicate he dined on a lot of meat, as well as einkorn wheat and barley (Dickson et al. 2000).
As I'm putting the finishing touches on my article on isotope analyses of the Imperial Roman diet, I've become quite interested in the differential consumption of wheat/barley and millet. Wheat and barley have a distinctly different carbon isotope signature than does millet, but few palaeodietary studies have been done to look at the prevalence of millet in the Italian peninsula and the differences among the populations that consumed it. By the Bronze Age in Italy, people from the far north of the Italian peninsula were eating their fair share of millet, particularly compared to their contemporaries in southern Italy (Tafuri et al. 2009). Even though quite a bit is known about the timing of the introduction of domesticated plants into Italy during the Neolithic, we still know little about the intensity of cultivation of various cereals. The diets of Oetzi and the Lady of Introd are therefore quite interesting primarily because they can provide direct evidence for differences in cereal consumption in the Neolithic. They are just two data points, but I hope the dietary analysis of the Lady of Introd reveals some interesting data to answer questions about Neolithic diets.
Dickson JH, Oeggl K, Holden TG, Handley LL, O'Connell TC, & Preston T (2000). The omnivorous Tyrolean Iceman: colon contents (meat, cereals, pollen, moss and whipworm) and stable isotope analyses. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 355 (1404), 1843-9 PMID: 11205345.
Tafuri MA, Craig OE, & Canci A (2009). Stable isotope evidence for the consumption of millet and other plants in Bronze Age Italy. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 139 (2), 146-53 PMID: 19051259.