Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download

uni'wissen 01-2015

family. The final results should be available by the end of 2015. Then the archaeologists will be able to begin their interpretational work. In order to find out when the graves were dug, the researchers begin by analyzing the objects found in the graves. This allows a stylistic dating. To include graves without burial offerings in the analysis, they determine the time of burial by conducting radiocarbon dating on the bones. This method also has an important control function, says Brather-Walter: The dating doesn’t just reveal the time at which the graves were dug but also whether their assumption is correct that the burial offerings date from the time around 500. Studies of isotopes, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon analysis, provide answers to the key question of where the people buried in the cemetery came from. They allow inferences about their diet and thus indirectly about their social position. In addition, the isotopes can reveal whether a person’s diet changed in the course of their life. The analyses involve taking bone and tooth samples. Much like the growth rings of a tree trunk, teeth grow in layers. With samples from ten layers per tooth, the scien- tists can compile a personal nutritional profile for each of the people – a task they have just begun to tackle. If the profiles show changes, they could stem either from a change of diet or indicate that the person moved to Niedernai from a region with other soil conditions. “A Roman soldier who grew up on the Mediterranean coast can be identified by childhood tooth rings with isotope conditions pointing to a diet of seafood,” explains Brather- Walter. However, it is not easy to interpret the results of the analyses: If Niedernai received grain shipments from other regions, the isotopes will correspond to those of a person who lived else- where. “The Rhine was not a border around the year 500.” Skeleton of a child aged approximately seven years with an axe: This grave is one of 32 found at the cemetery of Niedernai. Photo: Marianne Zehnacker uni wissen 01 201522 Specialtopic:ResearchintheUpperRhineregion uni wissen 01201522