Before the Romans. Addressing the interplay between genetic and cultural variation in Pre-Roman Italy

Research project
Active research
Project size
5.3 million SEK
Project period
2022 - ongoing
Project owner
Institutionen för historiska studier

Short description

In recent years, studies of the European Bronze and Iron Age have experienced a paradigm shift in which interdisciplinary approaches have taken centre stage in an effort to produce new knowledge. In particular, the study of ancient genomics has seen a dramatic boost adding dimensions to our understanding of prehistoric societies that previously were unimaginable. The present project focuses on the first millennium BCE Italian Peninsula and a uniquely large dataset (c. 500 individuals from all over the country). Ancient Italy offers a unique wealth of archaeological and textual evidence suggesting a sizable cultural and linguistic variety prior to the Roman Era. It is therefore an outstanding case to investigate the complex interplay between cultural and genetic variation.

More about the project

The novelty of this project is to include in a synergic interdisciplinary approach, archaeological, genetic, stable isotope and cutting-edge proteomic studies. The latter will unfold data about both dietary customs, and lifestyle/health, thus adding a new depth to our assessments of cultural characterization. The aim is to produce a novel methodological approach for the investigations of the relationship between culture and genetics widely applicable to the study of past societies.


The project will integrate the study of the archaeological material culture, supposedly embodying significant aspects of individual and/or group identity with genetics and diet/lifestyle evaluation. The large sample size will add greatly to the possibility to unveil patterns of genetic diversity among the chosen individuals, while diet and lifestyle/health are assumed to represent one potential bridge between biology and culture. The diachronic and geographic distribution of the sampled individuals increase substantially the possibility to address our research aims:

  1. Establish an innovative theoretical and methodological approach to address the interplay of cultural and genetic variation in past societies by combining archaeology, genetics, stable isotopes, and proteomics.
  2. Assess the genetic characterization of ancient Italic people.
  3. Assess dietary customs and lifestyle of the analysed individuals.
  4. Reassess the cultural significance of archaeological assemblages in burial contexts in the light of the new knowledge from genetics, stable isotopes, and proteomics.