Funerary offerings of biological products in Celtic, Etruscan, Italic and Phenico-Punic worlds. 

Funded by the ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche)

The missions in France

1. Funerary identities and cultural transfers : organic materials and biological products in preroman Gaul and Italy 

Scientific issues :

The research program aims to bring to archeologists scientific usually unavailable datas since they are too much damaged to be identified by usual means. MAGI program’s main challenge is to associate several scientific methods (carpology, palynology, phytolith studies, organic chemistry) in order to identify biological contents put in the graves and their immediate surrounding, and thus get access to new informations about funerary rituals’ usually unknown characteristics (offerings of biological products being by definition highly degradable), and increased knowledge about cultural tranfers in funerary using of biological products across Gaul and Italy.

Objectives :

  1. Setting a transdisciplinary analytic methodology
  2. Identifying funerary offerings of organic materials and biological products
  3. Resolving questions about archaeological recipients’ functions
  4. Understanding biological products exchanges and their cultural meanings.

2. Biomolecular and archaeobotanic analyses of organical residues traces

Samples are taken in graves and their enclosed areas for archeobotanical and chemical analyses made possible by excavation protocol and samplings appropriated to context specificity and objects typology. 

Separative (chromatography) and structural (mass spectrometry) analyses in laboratory are known as the only valid approaches to identify with certainty ancient, damaged and mixed biological materials. Thus, any spectral method (such as infrared) has been denied. A new extraction protocol independently developped and validated by LNG gives access to insoluble and/or polymerized organic matter with 10 to 100 times more concentrated samples than usual ones. Therefore, this method opens new paths for organic materials identification, aldaric acids and fruits phenols (especially for grapes and wine), polyinsaturated fatty acids of vegetable oils. Confronting archeobotanic datas with chemical analyses results enables to precisely figure out the nature of biological products used in funerary rituals.

3. Major outcomes of the project

Wine is the main product use in funerary rituals. Apart from the wine banquet, many vases were fulled with food offerings among which some were cooked. Unlike Gaul, the major part of other funeral offerings in Italy are medicinal and cosmetic products, several fat and perfumed substances. Partnerships have been made with the INRAP (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives), the Louvre museum, Lyon’s museum of gallo-roman civilization and the Swiss University of Fribourg for developing additional programs.

4. Scientific production

About thirty articles have been published or are to be soon, and two books will come out in 2020. Two Thematic Schools, eight seminars and a final colloquium have been set up. Wine’s identification protocol has been presented in several conferences and was the topic of one article. Four PhD theses are currently ongoing, and a specialization thesis (Master 2 level) was defended in Naples in 2017.

5. Illustration

6. Facts

The MAGI project is a fondamental research program coordinated by Dominique Frère (TEMOS and AOROC labs), in partnership with Claude Pouzadoux (Centre Jean Bérard), Philippe Marinval (UMR 5130) and Nicolas Garnier (LNG). It started in January 2013, and was closed in January 2017, with a one year extension. The ANR funding was 279 995 euros for a total cost of 1 688 108 euros.

Foodstuffs, Dairy products, Fermented beverages, Medicinal and Cosmetic products, Perfumes, Aromatic materials in the Mediterranean and West-European areas. This scientific notebook presents the bioarchaeology research programs of the Temos laboratory (CNRS, UMR 9016).

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