• Skeletal biology;
  • Family segregation;
  • Italy;
  • Iron Age


Numerous authors have studied human cemetery remains with an eye toward identifying different socially stratified ethnic or kinship groups within the same population. The interments of the protohistoric graveyard of Alfedena, Abruzzo, Italy, show recurrent organization in separate structures, suggesting to several involved archaeologists that these structures express family groups and/or differences in social function of the occupants. This has induced us to analyze the possible biological implications of specific models for kinship groups, lineages, or mating forms in graveyards. One hundred ninety-six metric and nonmetric skeletal and dental variables were collected. The analysis of metric features was performed by analysis of variance and by calculating divergences between each pair of individuals. The position parameters of the inter-and intragroup distance distributions were then compared by means of nonparametric tests. The nonmetric features were analyzed by contingency tables.

The partition of intercircle variance is twice as frequently significant for males (20 variables) as for females (10). For metric variables in males, 20.9% displayed a probability level less than 5% for the null hypothesis of random distribution of individuals in the circles. Fewer (10.3%, but still more than expected at random) reached this level of significance for the females. In the male groups, 19% of nonmetric features showed significant frequency differences, but this was true in only 4.3% of the females. In view of Morton's demonstration of the ineffectiveness of exogamic clans as a genetic barrier, and having verified the existence of morphometric and morphological similarities inside the groups of graves, we can reasonably assume the latter to be the expression of kinship groups (perhaps patrilocal), such as families.