Bioarchaeological inferences from a Neolithic ossuary from Alepotrypa Cave, Diros, Greece



Alepotrypa Cave, one of the richest and best preserved Neolithic sites in Greece, was occupied by early farmers from ca. 5000 to 3200 BC. Study of human remains from this site contributes important information to the bioarchaeological record for this period. The remains are from the cave's Ossuary II, a secondary deposit containing the disarticulated remains of at least 20 individuals, including adults and sub-adults. A high frequency of porotic hyperostosis and cribra orbitalia suggests the presence of chronic iron deficiency anaemia. A combination of two possible factors could explain this situation, including reliance on an iron-deficient cereal diet, and presence of high pathogen and parasitic loads resulting from poor hygiene and contamination of the communal water source. These lesions may also be related to some type of inflammatory process. Some 31% of individuals display healed cranial depressed fractures, indicating evidence of violent (non-lethal) confrontations. Stable isotope analysis reveals a predominantly terrestrial C3 diet, with little evidence of marine food consumption, despite close proximity to coastal resources. The presence of various domesticated plants suggests that these C3 foods may have been agricultural. Moreover, a high frequency of dental caries is consistent with a diet involving significant carbohydrate consumption. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.