A study of 2,000-year-old skeletons in two Roman cemeteries has revealed that some migrants were likely from outside Roman Empire, possibly from North Africa and the Alps.
Kristina Killgrove from University of West Florida, in the US, and Janet Montgomery from Britain’s Durham University did isotope analyses of 105 skeletons buried at the necropolises during the first through the third centuries AD.
They analysed the oxygen, strontium, and carbon isotope ratios in the skeletons’ teeth to determine their geographical origin and diet.
The authors of the study, published on February 10 in the journal PLOS ONE, found that up to eight individuals were likely migrants from North Africa and the Alps. The individuals were mostly children and men, and their burial indicated that they might have been poor or even slaves.
They also found that their diet probably changed significantly when they moved to Rome, possibly adapting to the local cuisine, comprising mostly wheat and some legumes, meat and fish.
While previous work has focused on the overall human migration patterns within the Roman Empire, the study by Killgrove and Montgomery provides the first physical evidence of individual migrants to Rome during the period.