Perils, Potential and Perspectives of Bioarchaeological Analyses in the Study of Mediterranean Mobility


  • Giulia Saltini Semerari University of Michigan
  • Britney Kyle University of Northern Colorado
  • Laurie Reitsema University of Georgia



bioarchaeological analyses, identity, Mediterranean archaeology, mobility


The resolution of bioarchaeological analyses has improved dramatically in recent years, and bioarchaeology is increasingly employed in areas of the world where preservation issues and disciplinary traditions had previously hindered its application. One such area is the Mediterranean region. Bioarchaeological analyses arguably are the most direct indicator of human behavior in the past, and as a result the full integration of bioarchaeology and archaeology into Mediterranean research shows much promise. However, several methodological, theoretical and practical challenges have emerged: (1) discrepancies between cultural and biological variability; (2) discrepancies in the dating of skeletal samples and of migration events in the two subdisciplines; (3) diverging interpretations of (collective) identities; and (4) the fostering of effective cross-disciplinary communication and collaboration. While the first two points are especially salient for Mediterranean research, the third and fourth are relevant for the archaeological discipline more generally. In this paper, we discuss each challenge in turn, focusing on the first millennium bc Greek diaspora in the Mediterranean. We believe that both disciplines would benefit from open discussion of these issues, which we hope might spur more collaborative efforts towards their resolution.

Author Biographies

Giulia Saltini Semerari, University of Michigan

Giulia Saltini Semerari’s main research interest is Mediterranean connectivity, in particular the methodological and conceptual challenges of understanding the interplay between local social changes and broad Mediterranean-wide shifts. She initiated and directed an international, collaborative project applying a spectrum of bioarchaeological and archaeological analyses to indigenous and early colonial cemeteries in southern Italy. She is co-director of the field school at the indigenous Greek site of Incoronata in southern Italy, where she is also responsible for the metal finds. She is currently a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan. 

Britney Kyle, University of Northern Colorado

Britney Kyle is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Northern Colorado. She is a bioarchaeologist whose research uses human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts to identify how past peoples respond biologically and culturally to major social transitions. She directs the Bioarchaeology of Mediterranean Colonies Project (BMCP) with Laurie Reitsema. The BMCP explores interactions between Mediterranean peoples and Greek colonizers in the eighth through fourth centuries bc and has implications for understanding culture contact in a variety of contexts.

Laurie Reitsema, University of Georgia

Laurie Reitsema is a bioarchaeologist and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Georgia, where she directs the Bioarchaeology and Biochemistry Laboratory. She researches diet and health patterns among human populations in Europe and North America. Her recent research focuses on Greek and Roman colonization in the Mediterranean region through the Bioarchaeology of Mediterranean Colonies Project co-directed with Britney Kyle. 


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How to Cite

Semerari, G. S., Kyle, B., & Reitsema, L. (2021). Perils, Potential and Perspectives of Bioarchaeological Analyses in the Study of Mediterranean Mobility. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 34(1), 84–108.