Strangers in the grave? Investigating local provenance in a Greek Bronze Age mass burial using δ34S analysis
Efrossini Vika Journal of Archaeological Science 36.9 (September 2009): 2024-2028.
The present study employs δ34S analysis to investigate the potential of this method in the investigation of local/geographic origin for the 12 individuals buried collectively over the ruins of a Bronze Age building, under a tumulus, in Thebes, Greece, and to help in the understanding of this unique case in Greek archaeology. Sulphur isotope analysis of bone collagen is applied with increasing frequency to elucidate aspects of paleodiet and movement in archaeology. Sulphur is linked to local geology and can also be used to indicate proximity of people and animals to the sea. The osteoarchaeological analysis of the assemblage revealed that it included individuals of both sexes and all age groups, a configuration which could traditionally be interpreted as an extended family. The absence of synchronous burials in Thebes amplifies the importance of this assemblage. At the same time, traditional archaeological practice has been unable to elucidate the conditions that led to this event, proposing a biological affinity for the individuals and personal reasons for their extinction. However, sulphur isotope analysis clearly demonstrated that at least one of the individuals had spend the last years of life in an environment different from the rest, a fact likely to indicate a rather random composition of this assemblage.