Anthropology

Osteobiology of Italian miners

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Science  02 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6414, pp. 555-556
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6414.555-e

There are few historical records of the lives of working-class people. In the late 1400s, alum—hydrated salts of aluminium sulfate—was valued as a primer for wood-panel paintings and as a mordant to stabilize textile dyes. To gain some insight into the diet and lives of the people who mined and processed alum mineral, Baldoni et al. analyzed bones from a grave site in the town of Allumiere, one of the first alunite mining sites in Italy. Each phase of the process left telltale musculoskeletal markers, including fractures and osteodegenerative disease. Dietary analyses hint at consumption of beans, cabbage, and sheep and cattle meat, as well as medicinal plants. In this case, the record lies in the very bones of the people.

PLOS ONE 13, e0205362 (2018).

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