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Exploring Social Permeability in Ancient Communities of Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Ex-SPACE (Exploring Social Permeability in Ancient Communities of Europe)

Reporting period: 2016-09-26 to 2018-09-25

Ex-SPACE project has focussed on the permeability of the ancient societies of the Bronze Age to accept and integrate non-local individuals in the local groups, and consequently, on how the eventual integration of newcomers influenced the socio-political process that brought village communities to a more articulated and hierarchical system based on urban centres. This task is addressed through an extensive series of biogeochemical analyses on human bones and teeth (using strontium, oxygen and carbon isotopes) that allow to determine if an individual was born in the same place where he/she died or, conversely, moved from another place. The relationship between indigenous people and immigrants at the dawn of European civilization is central in the current debate on migration and human mobility.
The analyses have targeted four Bronze Age archaeological sites located in Northern Italy, an area that has always represented a buffer-zone between Continental Europe and the Mediterranean, notably characterized by different socio-political systems.
Mobility patterns have been explored for four key-sites, spanning the Early to Late Bronze Age (1900-900 BC), namely Sant’Eurosia, Casinalbo, Fondo Paviani and Narde di Frattesina, through strontium, oxygen and carbon isotope analysis on a large sample size (150 individuals). The integration between biogeochemical, osteological and archaeological data has enabled us to retrace different patterns of mobility among different categories of individuals.
"The results of Ex-SPACE, integrated with osteological and archaeological data, document for the first time in this area that movements of people occurred mostly within a territorial radius of 50 km, but also that larger nodes in the settlement system included individuals from more distant areas. This suggests that, from a demographic perspective, the process towards a more complex socio-political system in Bronze Age Northern Italy was triggered by a largely, but not completely, internal process, stemming from the dynamics of intra-polity networks and local/regional power relationships. The results have also highlighted a growing mobility of the elite segment of the society, which takes benefit of its political position to establish ‘international’ connections in the ‘globalised’ world of the late second/early first millennium BC.
The Academic Dissemination (AD1) comprised a series of seminars, workshop, conferences and scientific articles.

Workshop/conferences, as organizer:
1) “Central Mediterranean Workshop” at the Durham University, 4-5-2017;
2) “Mobility of people and things in Bronze Age Italy”, international conference at the British School at Rome, 31-5-2018;
3) “Genes, Isotopes and Artefacts: How should we interpret the movement of people throughout Bronze Age Europe?”, international conference, Austrian academy of Science (Vienna), 13/14-12-2018.

Participation as speaker:
1) Participation at the workshop “New Approaches to Burnt Human Bones and Teeth: the bioarchaeology of cremations and tooth cementum annulation"", Austrian academy of Science (Vienna), 16/17-11-2017.
2) International Conference ""South Wind. Late Bronze Age Cultural Phenomena and influences from the Adriatic Region to the North"", Austrian academy of Science (Vienna), 6-4-2017.
3) 51st Annual Conference of the Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria, Forlì, 12/15-10-2016.
4) 51st Annual Meeting of the American Institute of Archaeology (AIA), Toronto, 5/8-1-2017.
5) Conference in Honour of Maria Bernabò Brea, Parma, 8/9-6-2017
6) 52nd Annual Conference of the Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria, Milano-Como, 17/21-10-2017
7) Conference “La frequentazione delle grotte in Emilia Romagna tra archeologia, storia e speleologia”, Brisighella, 6/7-10-2017.
8) Conference “Frattesina fifty years later. The Po Delta between Europe and the Mediterranean in the centuries around 1000 BC”, 13/15-4-2018
9) Workshop “Mobility of people and things in Bronze Age Italy”, 31-5-2018, British School at Rome, Rome.

1) “Mobilità individuale e di popolazioni nella tarda preistoria europea. Bioarcheologia, isotopi, DNA”, Università degli Studi di Bologna, 24-10-2017.
2) “Demography, mobility and society in the Bronze Age Italy”, University of Groeningen, 28-11-2017.
3) “Bronze Age mortuary practices, demography and mobility patterns in Northern Italy”, Hungarian Academy of Science, Budapest, 10-11-2017.
4) “Human mobility in Northern Italy during the Bronze Age. Integrating archaeology, osteology and isotope analyses” Durham University, 5-12-2017.
5) “From villages to proto-urban centres in Bronze Age Italy. Tracing external influences and internal developments through isotopes and mobility studies”, Cambridge University - MacDonald Institute, 21th February 2018.
6) “The future of archaeological research in Europe”, Durham University at the workshop “Building bridges between Iberian and British Archaeology”, 21-6-2018.

Scientific articles have been produced:
1) Cavazzuti C. 2018, Resti umani e rituali nelle grotte emiliano-romagnole fra terzo e secondo millennio a.C. in P. Boccuccia, R. Gabusi, C. Guarnieri, M. Miari (eds.), “’...nel sotterraneo Mondo’ La frequentazione delle grotte in Emilia-Romagna tra archeologia, storia e speleologia, DEA - Documenti ed Evidenze di Ar"
As the dissemination activities have demonstrated, this research has not affect only archaeological and historical disciplines but also other fields of studies, such as anthropology, sociology, genetics. Beside scientific publications, a broader audience has been reached through a variety of actions: public conferences in museums, seminars, web articles, youtube videos.
The results of the Ex-SPACE project have raised the public interest and awareness on the impact of human mobility in ancient Europe, providing a long-term overview of the dynamics of integration and rejection, linked with the historical phenomena of rise, florescence and fall of past civilizations.
The actions of public dissemination PE1 via web have reached a total number of around 54,000 people. This is the sum of following actions:
Ex-SPACE website ( with news, links, articles about mobility in antiquity and about isotopes and DNA analysis on archaeological material. The website presents Ex-SPACE project, the research team, the aims and the methodologies. Results of the research are shown through three YouTube videos, which can be found at
Lab working
strontium isoscape
Lab working
Workshop Building Bridges
Lab working
Workshop Building Briges
Area of investigation