Bioarchaeology and Mountain Landscapes in Transylvania’s Golden Quadrangle

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Bioarchaeology International

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The Apuseni Mountains of southwestern Transylvania (Romania) are home to the richest gold and copper deposits in Europe, key resources that fueled the development of social complexity during the Bronze Age (ca. 2700–800 B.C.E.). This landscape encompasses a significant amount of topographic and ecological diversity, with upland landscapes incorporating major mineral deposits, forests, pastures, and salt springs, and lowland agropastoral landscapes abutting the major interregional Mureș River corridor. Local Early Bronze Age (ca. 2700–2000 B.C.E.) communities typically buried their dead in stone-covered tumuli in the uplands, though there are also examples of burial in lowland settlements. The relationship between upland and lowland mortuary contexts is an enduring question within the regional archaeological record. In this paper we present a case study that compares individuals from two sites: the lowland settlement of Alba Iulia-Pârâul Iovului and the upland cemetery of Meteș-La Meteșel. We ask whether there were differences between the uplands and the lowlands in terms of mortuary practices and eligibility for burial, or differences in the lived experience of pathology or trauma. Our results show that there are few significant differences between the two samples. Adults and subadults, as well as males and females, are represented at both sites, and levels of skeletal pathology are low, while dental insults are more frequent. We conclude by outlining a strategy for developing a regional bioarchaeology that will incorporate multiple lines of archaeological and bioarchaeological evidence and enhance our understanding of the biocultural dynamics of the region.

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