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Department of Archaeology


Marta Diaz-Zorita-Bonilla

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Research Topic

Reconstructing Social Structure through Bioarchaeological Analysis: Copper Age Societies in Southern Iberia.


Bioarchaeology is a powerful tool to reconstruct human behaviour, essential in understanding past societies. The main objective of this investigation is to reconstruct the social structure of southern Iberian Copper Age communities through bioarchaeological analysis, with special attention to social status and social differentiation. During this time period [c.3300-2100 cal BC], societies present a complex and hierarchical social organization based on unequal access to resources. This complexity is due to technological changes that make possible the accumulation of surplus and the marked increase in population numbers since the Neolithic period. These changes are observed in the archaeological record as different collective funerary patterns among groups.

The aim of this research is to reconstruct demographic patterns based on a population study with standard bioarchaeological methods in order to observe whether biological differences among individuals exist in relation to funerary patterns. In addition, analysis of the stable isotopes of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) will explore differences in diet and health status related to social differentiation. Strontium (87Sr/86Sr) and oxygen (δ18O) isotope analyses will be conducted to consider a proposed increase in population, and the mobility of that population during the Copper Age, and to test the question of status vs. local/non local individuals.

The sample population derives from several sites in the Extremadura and Western Andalusia areas; a total of c. 400 individuals will be analyzed from different funerary structures.