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Barmaz Necropolis Reveals Egalitarian Diet and Burial Practices in Neolithic Switzerland

Barmaz Necropolis Reveals Egalitarian Diet and Burial Practices in Neolithic Switzerland
Barmaz Necropolis Reveals Egalitarian Diet and Burial Practices in Neolithic Switzerland

The study of a Neolithic society in Valais, Switzerland, known as the Barmaz necropolis, challenges stereotypes about ancient equality. Led by Déborah Rosselet-Christ from the University of Geneva, researchers analyzed isotopes in bones and teeth from 49 individuals to uncover insights into their dietary practices and societal structures. Contrary to expectations, their findings suggest a remarkable equality in food consumption among men, women, locals, and foreigners alike.

Around 6,000 years ago, during the Neolithic era, agriculture and animal husbandry emerged. The Barmaz site provides evidence that regardless of gender or origin, individuals shared similar diets. This conclusion was drawn from isotopic analyses that revealed consistent protein sources sourced from the local environment, implying a lack of dietary differentiation based on social or biological factors.

To ascertain the origins and dietary habits of the Barmaz population, researchers examined strontium isotopes in tooth enamel and carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotopes in bones. Tooth enamel, formed in childhood and not renewed, indicated whether individuals were local or moved to the area later in life. Meanwhile, bone isotopes provided insights into the types and amounts of food consumed in their final years.

Barmaz Necropolis Reveals Egalitarian Diet and Burial Practices in Neolithic Switzerland

Barmaz Necropolis Reveals Egalitarian Diet and Burial Practices in Neolithic Switzerland

The Barmaz diet primarily consisted of animal protein supplemented with plants such as peas and barley. Notably, isotopic signatures from bones suggested a preference for young goats and pigs, possibly for higher meat quality despite lower yields. This dietary uniformity was particularly striking as it showed no significant differences between men and women, challenging traditional notions of gender-based dietary disparity in ancient societies.

Beyond diet, burial practices at Barmaz were also egalitarian, with little distinction in burial methods or materials used for men, women, locals, or foreigners. This suggests broader societal equality beyond dietary practices, reflecting a community where individuals, regardless of background, were treated similarly in life and death.

The Barmaz necropolis provides compelling evidence of an egalitarian Neolithic society where both men and women enjoyed equal access to food resources. This challenges prevailing stereotypes about gender and social inequality in ancient times, suggesting that some early human communities may have embraced principles of fairness and inclusivity, reminiscent of contemporary values.

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