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Ancient Romans may have been cozier with Huns than they let on

Despite painting nomadic Huns as ‘barbarians,’ Roman settlers swapped menus with them

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11:38am, March 24, 2017
Hun skull

HEADY HUNS  A new analysis of diet among the Huns and ancient Romans uses human remains from five Roman Empire frontier sites, including this skull with a stretched-out braincase. The practice of binding children’s heads to elongate the skull is thought to have originated among nomadic Huns.

Nomadic warriors and herders known as the Huns are described in historical accounts as having instigated the fifth century fall of the Roman Empire under Attila’s leadership. But the invaders weren’t always so fierce. Sometimes they shared rather than fought with the Romans, new evidence suggests.

Huns and farmers living around the Roman Empire’s eastern border, where the Danube River runs through present-day Hungary, borrowed ways of life from each other during the fifth century, say archaeologist Susanne Hakenbeck of the University of Cambridge and colleagues. Nomadic Huns on the Roman frontier raised relatively small numbers of animals and grew some crops, while border-zone farmers incorporated more meat into what had been a wheat- and vegetable-heavy diet, the scientists report March 22 in PLOS ONE.

“Our data show that the dietary strategies of the

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