After a new series of tests, a group of scientists concluded that all roads still lead to Rome. Experts examined the molar isotopes of skeletons buried near Rome in order to find clues about Roman immigrants.
It was estimated that in the first century AD, Rome was inhabited by almost 1 million people. Experts think this is a huge number for an ancient city. Nonetheless, this is only a part of the empire’s approximately 60-million population connected by diverse cultures and languages.
According to archaeologists Kristina Killgrove and Janet Montgomeery, migrants from all the Empire’s regions traveled to the capital. Some of them went on their own, but others were forced to migrate because they were slaves. Back then, Rome was considered to be inhabited by wealthy men. However, almost 40 percent of the population were slaves. In addition, 5 percent of the residents were simply migrants.
To gather more information about Roman inhabitants, researchers analyzed the teeth isotopes of various skeletons found outside the city. The fossils were buried in two Roman cemeteries, Casal Bertone and Castellaccio Europarco. The two necropolises were used until the 2nd century AD mostly by Rome’s working class.
The majority of the graves are very simple, without any decoration or personal objects buried with their owners. The experts claimed it was very difficult to say whether the bones came from slaves or citizens. Many of the analyzed teeth belonged to men over 50 years old.
To discover the men’s origins, the scientist assessed strontium, oxygen and carbon isotopes in their teeth to find what types of food and water they consumed. Oxygen isotopes are known to indicate the water type individuals drank. However, experts stated it was the first time they used this procedure on Roman skeletons.
They discovered that four of them belonged to men born outside Rome. The bones indicated three male grownups over 50 years old and a child between 11 and 15 years old. Moreover, another four skeletons were potential migrants.
Their teeth suggested they traveled to Rome between the age of four and ten, when they died. Experts were left wondering where they came from. They are taking into consideration the fact that these people came from all region of the Roman Empire. Oxygen isotopes revealed the longitude, while strontium suggested the altitude. This led the scientists to conclude two of the immigrants came from mountain areas, such as the Alps or the islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Another traveled from Italy’s Apennine Mountains and another seemed to have been born in Northern Africa. Nonetheless, after further investigation on the skeletons, researchers concluded that all roads still lead to Rome. Also, they think the study might point out the role of migrants in shaping the Roman Empire’s history, culture and geography.
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