Margaux Depaermentier

Mobility, Social Structures and Way of Life in Late AntiqueBasiliaand Early MedievalBazela


The project "Mobility, Social Structures, and Lifestyles in Late Antique Basilia and Early Medieval Bazela" aims to take a fresh look at a period of Basel's urban history in which so-called "Völkerwanderungen" (migrations of peoples) may have taken place and in which Late Antique Basilia and Early Medieval Bazela, respectively, became the site of numerous political, cultural, and economic interactions due to their location on the imperial border. However, the period in question is still heavily influenced by contested (migration) narratives coming from the interpretation of ancient written sources, so that the ethnic categorization of archaeological finds and features still plays a central role.

Thus, this project does not only aim at a summarizing evaluation of the early medieval cemeteries of Basel, which has been missing so far, but also at an interpretation of the archaeo(bio)logical data, which goes far beyond the previous studies on the "Völkerwanderungszeit" in Basel and also joins the current research on this topic throughout Europe. Thus, the traditional subdivision of the late antique and early medieval population of Basilia and Bazela, respectively, into 'Romans', 'Alamanni' and 'Franks', based exclusively on humanistic methods and today extremely controversial, will first be re-examined with the help of isotope, aDNA and anthropological analyses.

The project focuses on the Late Antique and Early Medieval cemeteries of Basel. These are geographically distributed over the entire urban area of Basel on both sides of the Rhine and cover the period between the 4th and 8th centuries AD, providing a unique and representative overview of a time span of almost 400 years.

A new evaluation of the archaeological material will initially focus on the analysis of (dis)continuities, local to supra-regional networks of relations and social as well as economic structures in the foreground of early medieval research in Basel. The analysis of strontium and oxygen isotopes on selected Late Antique and Early Medieval skeletons also allows to identify locally from non-locally(foreign) born or raised individuals. The descendants of alien individuals can even be identified over later generations by aDNA and, if the original dietary traditions are maintained, possibly by nitrogen and carbon isotope analyses, refining the reconstruction of migration history as well as the study of continuities. Methods of physical and human geography also reveal a basic understanding of anthropogenic use of the surrounding land and therefore of the composition of isotopic ratios in the skeleton of locally reared people.

The joint interdisciplinary analysis of the data leads to a reconstruction of late antique and early medieval mobility or migration patterns, social structures and subsistence strategies in Basel that is as objective as possible.