Over 250 burials and the skeleton of a horse unearthed at ancient necropolis in Milan

Work on the new underground line 4 in Milan has brought to light a necropolis with over 250 skeletons belonging to burials from different eras. Among the remains found there is also that of a horse that according to archaeologists is «the first example of equine burial found in Milan.»

Over 250 burials and the skeleton of a horse unearthed at ancient necropolis in Milan
Credit: Università degli Studi di Milano

The findings were made in front of the Basilica of San Vittore al Corpo, near the construction site for the Stazione Sant’Ambrogio in M4, where the first phase of the archaeological excavations was completed.
«This area,» explained Antonella Ranaldi, Superintendent of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the Metropolitan City of Milan, «has preserved a necropolis from Roman times until the Sixteenth century.»

Over 250 burials and the skeleton of a horse unearthed at ancient necropolis in Milan
Credit: Università degli Studi di Milano

Cristina Cattaneo, legal doctor and director of Labanof, the Laboratory of Anthropology and Forensic Dentistry of the University of Milan, stressed the importance of the skeletons found. «Some discoveries are extremely interesting, for example the first case of tuberculosis. Right here, in fact, we found a spine with the typical lesions of tuberculosis,» she said. «In the mass graves we have also found skeletons with signs of contusive head injuries and we think these are executions.»
The excavations have also brought to light the skeleton of a horse. Archaeologist Giuliana Cuomo, site manager for the Cooperativa Archeologia, made it clear that this is «the first case of equine burial found in Milan».

«It is an unusual fact in itself,» added Superintendent Ranaldi, «that raises questions about why it was in this area where there were precious tombs. We have not found anything else together with the skeleton, but if they have buried it in this area it must have belonged to some important personage».

This phase of archaeological excavations is over, all the findings have been removed from the site to be catalogued and studied.

Source: Milano Today [trsl. TANN, August 14, 2019]

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Seasonal Seafood in the Mesolithic: New study reveals humans foraged molluscs in winter for better meat returns

The Mesolithic of Cantabria, northern Spain, like other regions in Atlantic Europe, is characterised by a marked increase in the human use of coastal resources and the formation of the so-called shell middens.

Seasonal Seafood in the Mesolithic: New study reveals humans foraged molluscs in winter for better meat returns
Sampling procedures applied for the extraction of calcium carbonate micro-samples
from the aragonite layer [Credit: Asier García-Escárzaga]

Archaeological investigations have provided insights into the formation processes of these shell middens, as well as long-term changes in human exploitation of different marine resources and the relationship of foraging strategies to climate changes.
However, efforts to reconstruct the key environmental factors governing coastal subsistence and foraging resilience, the seasonal availability and use of different marine resources, has been limited in the region, and indeed across coastal Mesolithic Europe more widely.

In a new study published in the Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences Journal, two members of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (Asier Garcia-Escarzaga and Patrick J. Roberts), in collaboration with scholars of two Spanish universities, have applied oxygen isotope analyses on mollusc shells to determine the season in which this food supply was harvested by humans.

Seasonal Seafood in the Mesolithic: New study reveals humans foraged molluscs in winter for better meat returns
Seasonality of Phorcus lineatus collection by stratigraphic unit (SU). The figure shows the
 absolute number (bars) and the percentage (pies) of samples assigned to each season
[Credit: Asier García-Escárzaga]

The authors proved that not only did the stable oxygen isotope measurements of Phorcus lineatus (da Costa, 1778), a common mollusc found at Mesolithic sites in Cantabria, track the season of growth, but that this methodology could be used at the site of El Mazo cave to provide high-resolution insights into human consumption choices and the seasonality of mollusc collection through time.

The results of the study highlighted that molluscs were consistently harvested during the coldest months (late autumn and winter) throughout the entire shell midden sequence, in agreement with data previously obtained for this species elsewhere along the Atlantic façade of Europe.

Following an experimental programme in which modern samples were collected throughout three complete years, the authors were able to demonstrate that winter collection coincided with the period of maximum meat yield of this taxa in northern Spain.

This investigation demonstrates for the first time that mollusc collection patterns in Mesolithic Spain were driven by a cost-benefit principle and that human populations had intimate knowledge of the seasonal developmental cycles of exploited marine taxa.

Source: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History [August 14, 2019]

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