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Investigating Human Mobility in Ancient Etruscan Communities

During the Italian Iron Age (10th-6th century BCE), distinct cultural groups left their mark in the archaeological record. Among them, the Etruscans, mainly residing in modern Latium, Umbria, and Tuscany (later known as Etruria), rapidly expanded across the peninsula, leading to significant socio-political changes, such as the transition from villages to cities. At the outset of the Iron Age (9th-8th century BCE), these people established frontier sites in strategic areas, interacting with neighbouring communities. Sites like Verucchio, Sala Consilina, Capua, Fermo, and Pontecagnano (Figure 1), situated kilometres away from Etruria, were initially part of a broader Etruscan network, sharing similar funerary rituals and grave goods.

During the Orientalising period (8th-6th century BCE), borders, political balances, and networks underwent complete redesigns throughout the peninsula. While Pontecagnano and Capua accelerated their development into significant urban centres (recognized as Etruscan by ancient authors), others like Sala Consilina, Fermo, and Verucchio showed no progress towards increased social complexity and urbanization, diverging from the original Etruscan network and leading to distinct socio-political outcomes. TULAR explores how fluctuation in human mobility affected the existing networks, ultimately leading to completely different cultural, social, and political dynamics.

Traditional archaeology and cutting-edge approaches to reconstructing human mobility

Traditional funerary rituals serve as significant loci for identity formation and essential tools for understanding changes in community connectivity among diverse groups. Meanwhile, advanced scientific analyses like aDNA and isotope analysis on human bones and teeth offer crucial evidence of human mobility and migration, providing insights into social and economic networks during the Iron Age.

TULAR utilizes five isotope proxies, including strontium (87Sr/86Sr), oxygen (δ18O), sulfur (δ34S), carbon (δ13C), and nitrogen (δ15N), to reconstruct origins, mobility, and diet. Strontium and oxygen isotopes help investigate movement and provide geological and climatic signals for origins, while sulfur isotopes indicate whether individuals were raised in coastal, wetland, or inland areas. Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis provide information on individual diets, supporting 87Sr/86Sr analysis interpretations.