Cave settlement of Rivolta at Ginosa (TA), Puglia (Photo by Vincenzo Stasolla)

A fairly large number of early medieval cemeteries have been excavated in southern Italy over the last few decades, although they have usually been analysed in their ‘formal’ aspects, such as the nature of the grave-goods (when present) and burial types, in some cases seen as indicators of ethnicity. These excavations provide data of great potential. Today, the study of human remains permits a better understanding of populations, mortality indices, the nature and incidence of pathologies and nutrition (through stable isotope analyses). The project envisages an anthropological study of human groups living in the various geographical areas under consideration (Apulia, Calabria, Sicilia) and a sampling programme so as to refine chronologies (C14), nutritional aspects and provenance (stable isotopes and, hopefully, genetic analyses), palaeopathologies. The written sources indicate that the movement of people across areas of the Mediterranean was relatively frequent: one need only think of the repopulation of the Salento in Byzantine times by people coming from Anatolia, Greece and the Balkans, to the Arab immigration into Sicily, etc. Thus, together with documentary sources, stable isotope and genetic analyses may have the potential to assess population movements, which can also help gauge social and cultural interaction across the Mediterranean and beyond. 

Mobility might also be indicated by the appearance of atypical artefacts within the territories under examination. Eastern Sicily, for instance, sees the appearance of a series of striated bowls ‘a stuoia‘ made through the hand-built slab technique, that do not have any precedents on the island or in neighbouring Byzantine territories.