November 18, 2009

Reviews Are In

Both reviewers liked my contribution to a forthcoming JRA volume on diaspora in the Roman world, which is good and should mean I'll have a peer-reviewed publication based on my dissertation data within the year. One had only minor comments (e.g., "I tried but could not find anything wrong with the bibiography" - apparently Roman archaeologists haven't yet heard of BibTeX) and the other had some helpful suggestions in regard to strontium, most of which I've already figured out in the time since I wrote the paper a year and a half ago.

What surprised me, though, was that they were both more interested in the few sentences I included about the health of the people at Casal Bertone and Castellaccio than they were about the mobility of the populations. Granted, a study on mobility has already been published at Portus Romae, but I'm using Sr isotopes and skeletons from Rome itself. I figured that since I am incredibly interested in mobility and in identifying and understanding phenomena like transnationalism and polyethnicity that we only get hints of in the historical record and since I convinced anthropological granting agencies to fund my research, everyone would be interested in mobility and migration. But no, the fact that the skeletons from Casal Bertone were so much healthier than the comparative populations I've read about is, in the words of one reviewer, a "potentially VERY important finding."

I suppose this means adding a dissertation chapter on palaeopathology. I had planned to smush together the C/N and dental pathology for diet and more or less gloss over the skeletal pathology section because I want to go into depth in the future with a study of disease ecology (and because I don't really buy the arguments that Rome was a cesspool and life in the city was nasty, brutish, and short). But I can't explain at this point why the people from Casal Bertone were so much healthier than other published populations, except by noting that the cemetery was in proximity to a nymphaeum and fullery/tannery that would have meant copious amounts of clean water. They didn't eat a very different diet than Castellaccio, they weren't of a higher class or demographically different - they just lived in a different place, one close to or even perhaps within the city walls.

After driving myself crazy trying to understand the complex geology of Lazio and the Italian peninsula, it's becoming clear that Italy has lots of different landscapes that often range over very small areas. Besides that, Rome has aqueducts - lots and lots of places where the average person could get clean water to drink, bathe in, and cook with. I'm not a landscape archaeologist, I am not a scholar of Roman water infrastructure, and I'm not even really a disease ecologist, but I'm interested to know what's going on: something allowed my skeletons at Casal Bertone to be healthier than others. Or maybe it's just interobserver error, and my report of palaeopathology at these two sites is skewed because I use different methods or have a different agenda than the Italian bioarchaeologists who published the comparative sites.

As always, though, I'm just pushing to write this dissertation. I collected a lot of data and was choosing not to deal with disease in the diss because it didn't directly relate to the argument I'm making about mobility in the Empire. But if palaeopathology is what my colleagues want, I suppose I should give it to them as soon as possible, right?

1 comments:

Cioara Andrei said...

Foarte interesant subiectul postat de tine. M-am uitat pe blogul tau si imi place ce am vazut.Cu siguranta am sa il mai vizitez.
O zi buna!

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