Prof. Dr. Alice Toso


Bonn Center for ArchaeoSciences (BoCAS)
Institut für Archäologie und Kulturanthropologie
AVZ III, Römerstraße 164
53117 Bonn
Phone: +49 228 73-7325

© Barbara Frommann

Academic Profile

Alice Toso current research revolves around the issues of dependencies between religious and cultural minority groups in the Medieval and Post-Medieval world, with specific focus on Portugal, Brazil and Romania. In order to explore these dynamics she uses bioarchaeological and biomolecular methodologies combining osteological and paleopathological research with multi-isotopic analysis and ZooMS (Zooarchaeology by Mass spectrometry) on human and animal remains from a different archaeological sites.

Her research interests fall into two broad categories: social inequalities and identity, and human-environment interaction explored through biomolecular and bioarchaeological techniques. On the theme of social inequalities and identity with close connection to dependencies, her work has dealt with the following topics:

  • The relationship between health and social status, reconstructing the health profile of two medieval populations from northern Italy (Asti) of different social status. This research found that the group that suffered from poorer health were young lower status women in 11th century Northern Italy.
  • The theme of identity intersecting with diet and faith was explored through stable isotopic analysis of bone collagen and apatite (δ13Ccol, δ15Ncol, δ13Cap) in Muslim and Christian communities in Medieval Portugal (9th-15th centuries) (Toso et al. 2019 ; Toso et al. 2021 ). Results indicate a strong correlation between diet and faith but also a drastic change in the economy of Portugal following the Christian conquest, with a new focus on fishing and marine exploration which cannot be seen in the Muslim period.
  • Subsistence strategies and dietary practices in Colonial Portugal and Brazil with the analysis of Modern age populations from important coastal centers such as Lisbon, Sines, Joinville and Porto Alegre, where different ancestry, cultural affiliation and social status were present.
  • Childhood in the past and the role of nutrition, breastfeeding and weaning practices among religious minority groups and through political transitions from Roman to Post-medieval Portugal. Children, being one of the most vulnerable categories, are considered to be a reliable indicator of a society’s wellbeing and have been studied in order to assess the impact of political and economic transitions in the past.

PhD in Archaeology, University of York (awarded in January 2019 with no corrections). Thesis title: “Diet and nutrition in Medieval Islamic Portugal: exploring inter-faith and social dynamics through stable isotopes”.

MSc Paleopathology (Merit), University of Durham. Dissertation title: “Stress markers as indicators of social stratification: the case of two medieval cemeteries from Northern Italy”

BSc Cultural Heritage and Archaeology (Hon), University of Bologna (awarded 110/110 cum laude)

ongoing Junior Professor in Bioarchaeology, BoCAS, University of Bonn

Postdoctoral researcher, ICTA and Department of Prehistory, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain

Associate Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, University of York

Bastos, M. Q., Guida, V., Rodrigues-Carvalho, C., Toso, A., Santos, R. V., & Colonese, A. C. (2022). Elucidating pre-columbian tropical coastal adaptation through bone collagen stable isotope analysis and bayesian mixing models: insights from Sambaqui do Moa (Brazil). Revista de Antropología Del Museo de Entre Ríos, 7(1), 1–10.

Toso, A., Hallingstad, E., McGrath, K., Fossile, T., Conlan, C., Ferreira, J., da Rocha Bandeira, D., Giannini, P. C. F., Gilson, S.-P., de Melo Reis Bueno, L., Bastos, M. Q. R., Borba, F. M., do Santos, A. M. P., & Colonese, A. C. (2021). Fishing intensification as response to Late Holocene socio-ecological instability in southeastern South America. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 23506.

Chanca, I., Borges, C., Colonese, A. C., Macario, K., Toso, A., Fontanals-Coll, M., ... & Milheira, R. G. (2021). Food and diet of the pre-Columbian mound builders of the Patos Lagoon region in southern Brazil with stable isotope analysis. Journal of Archaeological Science, 133, 105439.

Toso, A., Schifano, S., Oxborough, C., McGrath, K., Spindler, L., Castro, A., ... & Alexander, M. (2021). Beyond faith: Biomolecular evidence for changing urban economies in multi‐faith medieval Portugal. American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Cardoso, H.F.V., Marinho, L., Caldas, I., Puentes, K., Andrade, M., Toso, A., Assis, S., Magalhaes, T., (2020). Historical, demographic, curatorial and legal aspects of the BoneMedLeg human skeletal reference collection (Porto, Portugal), Anthropologischer Anzeiger; Bericht Uber die Biologisch-anthropologische Literatur, 77(1), 57-73. Doi: 10.1127/anthranz/2019/1023

Toso, A., Gaspar, S., Garcia, S., Banha da Silva, R., Alexander, M., (2019). High status diet and health in Medieval Lisbon: a combined isotopic and osteological analysis of the Islamic population from São Jorge Castle, Portugal, Anthropological and Archaeological Sciences

Pezo-Lanfranco, L., Eggers, S., Petronilho, C., Toso, A., da Rocha Bandeira, D., Von Tersch, M., dos Santos, A.M., da Costa, B.R., Meyer, R. and Colonese, A.C., (2018). Middle Holocene plant cultivation on the Atlantic Forest coast of Brazil?. Royal Society Open Science, 5(9), p.180432.

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