Necropolis of Vigna Masci

Anthropological analysis of a funerary sample

The cemetery area, composed of 27 burials, consisted of two distinct spatial nucleus, different in orientation, for structural features and chronologically framed in two distinct moments of the late ancient-early medieval phase. Core A - located at the northern sector of the site, about 27 yards north of the south building. It consisted of graves oriented in a south-west / north-east direction (tombs 16-18, 20, 21, 23, 24) all belonging to the typology with perimeter lithic shoulders and cover consisting of large limestone blocks. Surely when this sepulchral area was implanted, the building, already abandoned, was still visible in high.

Core B - This second group of burials (graves 1-15, 19, 22, 25-27) was roughly oriented in the west / east direction, distributed in the southern central sector of the area, and consisted mainly of terrestrial pit graves, according to a funerary practice among the most widespread in the Early Middle Ages in the rural area, with cover made of bricks, in many cases poorly preserved due to agricultural work. The only exceptions were the tombs 4 and 15; the first one, found inside the environment 2 of the south building, had the same typological characteristics of the burials of the first nucleus. This second nucleus, chronologically following the first, and framed between the sixth and seventh centuries, occupied the spaces adjacent to the south building, partially exploited the walls (tombs 8, 9) and also extended within the environments of the same (tombs 4, 7, 13), cutting the layers of collapse and abandonment.

All the graves highlighted were momonosome, with the exception of tomb 17, in which three individuals were found in childhood, one of them lying in primary deposition (individual B), while the other two were arranged in reduction beside and above the same. On the anthropological sample available, after the field analyzes conducted by Gaetano Miranda, laboratory investigations were carried out on three individuals (tombs 3, 13, 24). These tombs, among other things, have been preserved, the first two with resin casts, the third one reassembled with the lithic structure. The skeletal remains were subjected to classical paleodemographic investigations for the diagnosis of death and sex, followed by anthropometric findings for the determination of height, paleopathological analysis, observation of teeth-alveolar affections and the identification of musculoskeletal stress indicators to obtain, based on the degree of development of the muscles and the use of the joints, useful information for the reconstruction of the activities carried out in life by the inhumed subject of study.

The skeletal sample found in the Vigna Masci area consists of at least 29 individuals of whom 11 have died in infancy, 3 between 3 and 19 years, 12 in adulthood and 3 are not determinable (Figure 1). No deceased individuals were found in senile age, this can be an indicator of the life expectancy of this community, even if the sample found is rather small. On the basis of sex the sample is divided as follows: 8 males, 6 females, with a male / female ratio (sex ratio) of 1.33 / 1 and 12 subjects with undeterminable sex, of which 11 are infants and an adult (fig 2).

Tomb n. Gender Age
1 N.A. 0 - 3 months
2 N.A. Adult
3 M 4 years ± 12 months
4 N.A. 0 - 1 months
5 M 25 years
6 M N.A.
7 M Sub-adult
8 N.A. Infant
9 F 25 - 30 years
10 F 30 - 33 years
11 M 30 - 35 years
12 N.A. N.A.
13 M 30 - 35 years
14 M 3 - 6 years
15 N.A. 45 - 55 years
16 N.A. 5 - 6 years
17a N.A. 3 - 4 years
17b N.A. 6 - 7 years
17c N.A. 1 - 3 years
18 N.A. N.A.
19 F 23 - 28 years
20 F 20 - 22 years
21 N.A. 2 - 3 years
22 F 30 - 40 years
23 M 16 - 18 years
24 M 40 - 45 years
25 N.A. 4 - 5 years
26 F 18 - 19 years
27 N.A. N.A.


Tomb 3. Core B

Monosome burial in terrestrial pit, ellipsoidal basin (1,3 x 0,33 x 0,4 yd.), oriented west / east with a double brick roof. The buried, placed in empty space, supine, had the skull to the west facing east, the right upper limb with the forearm slightly flexed and resting on the pelvis and the left arm extended along the side with the lower limbs also stretched out (fig. 4).

The individual, in fairly good condition, turned out to be a sub-adult of 4 years ± 12 months, about 3,5 ft. tall. From the observation of the ileum, with the ischial incision which forms an angle of about 90°, and of the jaw, with a prominent chin and the canines protruding slightly from the dental arch, it can be assumed that the deceased was male.


Tomb 13. Core B

Monosome burial in terrestrial ellipsoidal pit (1,2 x 0,9 yd.), with undetermined coverage, oriented in a north-west / south-east direction. The individual, found supine, had been placed with the skull facing northwest to the southwest. The individual, in good state of conservation, laid in the ground, had the right upper limb with the forearm placed on the belly, the left one stretched with the forearm resting on the pelvis and the lower limbs extended (fig. 5).
This is a male, 1,8 yd. tall and dead between 30 and 35 years. A resin cast has been made of the new product.


Tomb 24. Core A

Monosome burial with masonry perimeter structure, rectangular (2,7 x 1,4 x 0,4 yd.) and undetermined coverage, oriented south-west / north-east.

It housed an individual lying supine with the skull facing south-west originally to the north-east, then turned to the left following post-depositional phenomena. The right upper limb was extended, with the hand carried towards the basins and the left one also stretched along the flank with the forearm rotated, the lower limbs also appeared extended (Fig. 6). The individual, male, about 1,8 yd. high, died between 40 and 45 years. Of the buried, in preparation for the exhibition project, the integral tear in situ was carried out.


Observations on the examined individuals's state of health

The musculoskeletal markers detected on the examined individuals, with the exception of the subject in childhood, show in the upper limbs the presence of not very marked muscular insertions while in the lower limbs and the coxal bones are well documented arthropathy and enthesopathies strong, caused by regular stresses related to intense and continuous walking and crouched or kneeling routine. With regard to the vertebral column, on adult individuals we note the presence of disc herniations (T. 13) and Schmörl (T. 13) also serious, possibly caused by the prolonged transport of heavy loads, and the presence of vertebral crushing with lipping phenomena.

Traumatic events with muscular tears (T. 13), fractures (T. 13, T. 24, Fig. 7) are also well represented. Also found some cases of infectious disease: the individual deposited in the grave 13 presented on the thoracic vertebrae the stigmata of an extrapulmonary tuberculosis in advanced stages (Fig. 8). There were widespread signs of periostitis, not attributable to specific inflammatory or infectious processes on the diaphysis of the buried's long bones in the graves 3 and 13. Regarding the stress indicators, the presence of cribra orbitalia on the roofs of the orbits (t 3, T. 13, Fig. 9) and of cribra cranii (T. 13) on the outer case of the skull.

The manifestation of this pathology is associated with a broad spectrum of causes including anemia, of genetic or charitable origin, but also the presence of bacterial staphylococcus or parasitic infections, promiscuous man-animal cohabitation, the contextual lack of vitamins C and B12, reduction in iron absorption.

Another indicator of stress is the enamel hypoplasia that manifests itself after episodes of malnutrition, childhood and metabolic diseases, changes in feeding that involve great efforts of adaptation.

The state of health of the oral cavity is not particularly good. Caries, tartar, abscesses, alveolar retraction and loss of infra vitam teeth were detected (Fig. 10), probable spies of a mainly cereal-vegetarian diet.

Valentina Dell'Anno