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Exploring Social Permeability in Ancient Communities of Europe (Ex-SPACE) 

Project Contacts: Professor Robin Skeates

PDRA working on the project: Dr. Claudio Cavazzuti


The Ex-SPACE project investigates to what extent Bronze Age societies in northern Italy were permeable: accepting and integrating non-local individuals, as well as importing a wide range of raw materials, commodities, and ideas from networks that connected communities on the Po plain to Continental Europea and the Eastern MediterraneanCarried out by Dr Claudio Cavazzuti, under the supervision of Prof. Robin Skeates and Dr. Andrew Millard, the research focusses on the isotopic analysis of samples of human bone from a selection of Italian Bronze Age mortuary contexts in northern Italy dated to the second millennium BC. At this time, communities in northern Italy engaged in a progressive stabilization of settlements, culminating in the large polities of the end of the Middle/beginning of the Late Bronze Age pivoted around large defended centres (the Terramare). Clarifying the dynamics of interaction on local and regional levels is essential to understanding this process.


For research published in PLoS ONE, mobility patterns have been explored for three key-sites, spanning the Early to Late Bronze Age (1900–1100 BC), namely Sant’EurosiaCasinalbo and Fondo Paviani, through strontium and oxygen isotope analysis on a large sample size (more than 100 individuals). The results, integrated with osteological and archaeological data, document for the first time in this area that movements of people occurred mostly within a territorial radius of 50 km, but also that larger nodes in the settlement system (such as Fondo Paviani) included individuals from more distant areas. This suggests that, from a demographic perspective, the process towards a more complex socio-political system in Bronze Age northern Italy was triggered by a largely, but not completely, internal process, stemming from the dynamics of intra-polity networks and local/regional power relationships. 

For research published in Antiquity, a similar analysis was undertaken in relation to the site of FrattesinaFollowing a mid twelfth-century BC demographic crisis, this place arose as a prominent hub linking continental Europe and the Mediterranean, as evidenced by the remarkable variety of exotic materials and commodities discovered at the site. Debate persists, however, about the extent to which migrants influenced the foundation and development of FrattesinaThe results of strontium isotope analyses suggest significant migration to the site, particularly of elites, mostly from within a 50km radius. Among these non-indigenous people, it is possible to identify a ‘warrior-chief’, who may represent the development of a new, more hierarchical society.  


EU-Horizon 2020-MSCA-IF-2015  


  • Cavazzuti, C., Skeates, R., Millard, A.R., Nowell, G., Peterkin, J., Bernabò Brea, M., Cardarelli, A. and Salzani, L. 2019. Flows of people in villages and large centres in Bronze Age Italy through strontium and oxygen isotopesPLOS ONE.
  • Cavazzuti, C., Cardarelli, A., Quondam, F., Salzani, L., Ferrante, M., Nisi, S., Millard, A.R. and Skeates, R. 2019. Mobile elites at Frattesina: flows of people in a Late Bronze Age ‘port of trade’ in northern Italy investigated through strontium isotope analysis. Antiquity, 93: 624-44.

Other Project Media

  1. Ex-Space youtube 1
  2. Ex-Space youtube 2
  3. Ex-Space youtube 3