Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Debra Martin

Second Committee Member

Alan Simmons

Third Committee Member

Barbara Roth

Fourth Committee Member

Kelly Knudson

Fifth Committee Member

John Curry

Number of Pages



According to the written sources of classical antiquity the Sarmatian populations of the Carpathian Basin were one of the region’s key actors during the Roman Period, and one of the Empire’s most formidable opponents. The same sources describe these groups as nomadic people of the steppes between the Ural Mountains and the Don River who migrated west and settled on the Great Hungarian Plain, inhabiting parts of modern Hungary for over four hundred years. While the Greek and Roman authors painted these groups as predatory and threatening skilled equestrian warriors caught in a cycle of peace and war with the Roman Empire, little is known about the biocultural challenges they had to face living in the Barbaricum. By taking the osteological remains as the starting point of interrogation, this research represents a first attempt to look at the frontier from the Barbaricum side. The bioarchaeological analysis of 430 skeletons derived from 13 archaeological sites from Hungary paints a complex picture: individuals experienced differential life stressors by sex, different stress factors also depending on where they lived in relation to the limes. Regardless of how close to or how far from the border one lived, nobody was exempt from a harsh life in the shadows of the Empire. A subset of 20 individuals (12 from Szolnok-Szűcs-tanya and 8 from Szolnok-Zagyva-part cemeteries) from the sample of 430 skeletons was further analyzed by combining the method of sex estimation using sexually dimorphic enamel peptides with macroscopic evaluations of linear enamel defects prevalence and distribution. The aim was to interrogate the relation between sex, health status, nutritional conditions, and age in a sub-optimally preserved skeletal sample. All the observable adolescents and adults had linear enamel hypoplasia present, having experienced multiple stress episodes during childhood. The mean number of systemic stress events per individual was similar for males and females. The greatest difference between the sexes was the distribution of the episodes. Females seemed to start experiencing stressful events earlier in life, hypoplasias occurring even in utero and during the first year of life, with a peak at 2 - 2.9 years; males started experiencing stressful events later, peaking at 3 – 3.9 years, and ending later than for the females. This study corroborates and adds more nuance to the results of the bioarchaeological analysis of the 430 individuals that found a higher female incidence of linear enamel hypoplasia than for the males. In this case, higher female enamel defect frequencies and significantly earlier onset could potentially point to a preferential investment in sons. This research also applies a biogeochemical approach in looking at mobility patterns for these groups inhabiting the Great Hungarian Plain during the Roman Period. 204 teeth from 105 individuals representing 12 of the 13 sites, dating from the 1st through the 5th centuries AD, were sampled for radiogenic strontium and stable oxygen isotope analyses. The project included 45 females, 52 males, and 8 non-adults. These samples consist of enamel that formed during early childhood, as well as enamel that formed during adolescence. Combining all the sites, the archaeological human enamel ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr values range from 0.70793 to 0.71351, with a mean of ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr = 0.70981 ± 0.00057 (1σ, n=204). The observed δ¹⁸Oc(VPDB) values ranged from -8.27 to 0.11‰, with a mean δ¹⁸Oc(VPDB)= -5.41 ± 1.42‰ (1σ, n=204). When combining the ⁸⁷Sr/⁸⁶Sr and δ¹⁸Omw(VSMOW) values for the sampled individuals, it becomes apparent that people who were either born elsewhere or spent parts of their childhood away from the site were a frequent component of the population: 64 were local, 13 were immigrants, 13 were emigrants, and 15 were foreigner (39.05% “non-local”). Thus, nuanced mobility patterns emerge for both males and females. The goal of this dissertation is to use empirical skeletal data to further our understanding of human health and mobility on the Great Hungarian Plain during the Roman Period; it combines bioarchaeological, paleoproteomic, and biogeochemical evidence in order to present a more detailed, more inclusive, and more reflective discourse on the Sarmatian residential histories and their life course in the Barbaricum.


amelogenin; linear enamel hypoplasia; radiogenic strontium isotopes; sex estimation; stable oxygen isotopes; stress indicators


Archaeological Anthropology | Biogeochemistry | Biological and Physical Anthropology

File Format


File Size

6400 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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Available for download on Wednesday, May 15, 2024