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Diet and subsistence in the Alps in Late Antiquity: Organic residue analysis of pottery from an upland site in the Dolomites (Busa delle Vette, Veneto, Italy)

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Francesco CarrerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2023 The Authors. The Busa delle Vette site was investigated as part of the UPLanD project, focused on the archaeology of pastoralism, to shed light on the lifeways of pastoral groups during the summer months. The site is composed of a hut and some enclosures located on a glacial cirque at 1850 m asl, in the Dolomites (Veneto, Italy), dating back from the Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages (5th to the 11th century CE). Initial data suggested that the hut was used by groups of shepherds for transhumance, but new evidence began to point to a possible different function. Thirty ceramic sherds of cooking pots dated to the Early Middle Ages (6th to 9th century CE), were analysed through organic residues analysis to identify their use and reconstruct the dietary habits of the people living at the site. The results of the analysis were discussed in relation to unpublished archaeozoological and archaeobotanical evidence to shed some light on the activities that were carried out in the investigated hut and the function of the site. The findings suggest that the cooking pots were mainly used to prepare soups and stews. Ruminant adipose products were identified in most of the investigated pots, sometimes associated with ruminant dairy products and millet. These data are consistent with the archaeozoological and archaeobotanical records, suggesting an intense use of this structure, not limited to seasonal pastoral practices but also associated to the mobility of troops and travellers through the local mountain passes. More research is necessary to validate this fascinating hypothesis, as comparable sites have never been identified in the Alps.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mileto S, Cavulli F, Carrer F, Ferronato E, Pecci A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports

Year: 2023

Volume: 51

Print publication date: 01/10/2023

Online publication date: 28/09/2023

Acceptance date: 31/08/2023

Date deposited: 09/10/2023

ISSN (print): 2352-409X

ISSN (electronic): 2352-4103

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2023.104200


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Funder referenceFunder name
Parco Nazionale delle Dolomiti Bellunesi