Antrocom

Online Journal of Anthropology

 

How ritual human sacrifice helped create unequal societies

 

Ritual human sacrifice played a central role in helping those at the top of the social hierarchy maintain power over those at the bottom. This is the central finding of a study published today in Nature. Researchers from the University of Auckland’s School of Psychology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and Victoria University, wanted to test the link between how unequal or hierarchical a culture was – called social stratification – and human sacrifice.

 

Ritual human sacrifice played a central role in helping those at the top of the social hierarchy maintain power over those at the bottom. This is the central finding of a study published today in Nature. Researchers from the University of Auckland’s School of Psychology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and Victoria University, wanted to test the link between how unequal or hierarchical a culture was – called social stratification – and human sacrifice.

 

“Religion has traditionally been seen as a key driver of morality and cooperation, but our study finds religious rituals also had a more sinister role in the evolution of modern societies,” says lead author of the study Joseph Watts from the University of Auckland.

 

The research team used computational methods derived from evolutionary biology to analyse historical data from 93 ‘Austronesian’ cultures. The practice of human sacrifice was widespread throughout Austronesia: 40 out of 93 cultures included in the study practised some form of ritualistic human killings. The term ‘Austronesian’ refers to a large family of languages, whose country of origin is Taiwan and whose distribution extends over much of the Indian and parts of the Pacific Ocean. Austronesian cultures form a sort of natural laboratory for intercultural studies, since they have a huge range of religions, languages, society sizes and shapes, and are located in different climatic and geographical regions.

 

Victims were typically of low social status

 

The methods of ritual killings in these cultures were diverse and sometimes extremely cruel. The reason for the killing was, for example, the burial of a leader, the inauguration of a new boat or house or the punishment for the violation of traditions or taboos. Victims were typically of low social status, such as slaves, while instigators were usually of high social status, such as priests and chiefs.

 

The study divided the 93 different cultures into three main groups of high, moderate or low social stratification. It found cultures with the highest level of stratification were most likely to practice human sacrifice (67%, or 18 out of 27). Of cultures with moderate stratification, 37% used human sacrifice (17 out of 46) and the most egalitarian societies were least likely to practice human sacrifice (25%, or five out of 20).

 

“By using human sacrifice to punish taboo violations, demoralise the underclass and instil fear of social elites, power elites were able to maintain and build social control,” Joseph Watts says.

 
Continua a leggere

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page

 

Researchers find differences between ethnic groups living as farmers and those engaged in traditional hunter-gatherer activities

 

Scientists have long thought that the rate with which mutations occur in the genome does not depend on cultural factors. The results of a current study suggest this may not be the case. A team of researchers from France and Germany analysed more than 500 sequences of the male Y-chromosome in southern African ethnic groups living as farmers and in population groups engaged in traditional hunter-gatherer activities. The study found that the agriculturalists had a comparatively higher rate of change than the hunter-gatherers did. The researchers explain this by the significantly older average age of paternity among the agriculturalists. Furthermore, the study finds a much older age for the most recent common ancestor of the human Y-chromosome than was previously assumed.

 

By sequencing stretches of the Y-chromosome of 500 African males, scientists have been able to show for the first time that the chromosome, which is inherited only in the paternal line, changes at different speeds in different population groups. The researchers compared, on the one hand, members of the Khoisan ethnic groups who traditionally live as hunter-gatherers and, on the other hand, speakers of a Bantu language living in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia who have long worked as farmers.
Interestingly, the different mutation rates can be explained by cultural differences between the two population groups: men from farming societies tend to have children for a longer period of time, leading to an older average age of fathers and a higher mutation rate than is typical for men from foraging societies.

 

“On average, paternal age in southern African foraging societies is 36 years, and 46 years in southern African agriculturalist societies”, explains Chiara Barbieri, scientist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and one of the lead authors of the study. “A 15-year increase in age of paternity results in a 50% increase of mutations – so these differences in lifestyle can have a huge impact on the rate of change of the Y-chromosome.”

 

Farmers often marry twice

 

Brigitte Pakendorf, scientist at the laboratoire Dynamique Du Langage in Lyon who coordinated the study added: “Farming societies often allow men to marry more than one wife, so that men often have children at a relatively advanced age with a younger woman. This is one of the factors behind this difference in paternal age and the resulting difference in mutation rate.”

 

The study also reveals a much older age than was previously thought for the most recent common ancestor of the human Y-chromosome. Whereas previous studies estimated an age of approximately 140,000 years, the current investigation estimates an age of 180,000 to 200,000 years. “Previous analyses studied mainly Eurasian individuals in their dating efforts and so missed much of the genetic variation found in southern African populations”, said co-author Mark Stoneking, professor at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “Overall, our results demonstrate the importance of expanding genetic studies to non-Eurasian populations.”

 

(Text & Images’ Source: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

 

 

 

 

 

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page

 

High-resolution, aerial imagery bears significance for researchers on the ground investigating how remote, ancient Maya civilizations used and conserved water.

 

Image shows the base of an excavated depression showing evidence of limestone quarrying for building material

Base of an excavated depression showing evidence of limestone quarrying for building material.

 

Collection, storage and management of water were top priorities for the ancient Maya, whose sites in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala were forced to endure seven months out of the year with very little rainfall.

 

As researchers expand their explorations of the civilization outside of large, elite-focused research site centers, aerial imagery technology is helping them locate and study areas that are showing them how less urbanized populations conserved water for drinking and irrigation. The NSF-supported research by Jeffrey Brewer, a doctoral student in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Geography, and Christopher Carr, a UC research assistant professor of geography, was presented at the 81st annual meeting of the Society of American Archaeology. The meeting takes place April 6-10, in Orlando, Florida.

 

The UC researchers used a surveying technology called LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) – along with excavation data – to examine the spatial characteristics, cultural modifications and function of residential-scale water tanks – a little-investigated component of Maya water management by commoners versus the more powerful and visible elites, says Brewer.

 

Image depicts view of a depression showing placement of excavation units

View of a depression showing placement of excavation units.

 

LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that collects high-resolution imagery shot from an airplane at 30,000 points per second, allowing researchers to map ground surfaces through dense vegetation. The technology saves a significant amount of time in the field, compared with trekking through forests to locate these small depressions at ground level.

 

The specific area under study is the ancient Maya site of Yaxnohcah, located in the Central Yucatan. “One of the unique aspects of this particular site is that it appears to date a little earlier than many regional sites of the same size in terms of displaying significant cultural activity,” says Brewer. “So, we’re still at ground level with our discoveries here.”

 

Although the LiDAR analysis revealed more than 100 potential small reservoirs scattered throughout the site, only five have been excavated so far. Brewer says three out of the five reservoirs appear to be water features based on the archaeological evidence.

 
Continua a leggere

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page

Iconic moai statues found on Easter Island. Photo courtesy of Dr. Valentí Rull

Hundreds of iconic moai statues stand testament to the vibrant civilization that once inhabited Easter Island, but there are far fewer clues about why this civilization mysteriously vanished. Did they shortsightedly exhaust the island’s resources? Were they decimated by European illnesses and slave trade? Or did stow-away rats devastate the native ecosystem? Such theories have spread widely, but recent evidence shows that the truth is not as simple as any one of these alone.

“These different interpretations may be complementary, rather than incompatible,” said Dr. Valentí Rull. “In the last decade, there’s been a burst in new studies, including additional research sites and novel techniques, which demand that we reconsider the climatic, ecological and cultural developments that occurred.” Rull is a senior researcher of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona, Spain, and the lead author of an overview on the holistic reassessment of Easter Island history.

Iconic moai statues found on Easter Island. Photo courtesy of Dr. Valentí Rull

Until recently, the evidence has been limited. Prior sedimentary samples—commonly used as historical records of environmental change—were incomplete, with gaps and inconsistencies in the timeline. Furthermore, past interpretations relied heavily on pollen alone, without incorporating more faithful indicators of climate change. Due to this uncertainty, many fundamental questions remain, not only about why the culture disappeared, but also precisely when these events occurred and how this civilization developed in the first place.

Using the latest analytical methods, Rull and his collaborators are beginning to shed light on many of these questions. Complete sedimentary samples now show a continuous record of the last 3000 years, showing how droughts and wet seasons may have influenced the island’s population. Sea travel depended on such weather patterns, resulting in periods of cultural exchange or isolation. Rainfall also impacted native palm forests, with droughts potentially contributing to the island’s eventual deforestation. Radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis of artifacts and human remains are also showing where the inhabitants lived on the island, what they farmed and ate, and the influence of cultures beyond their Polynesian ancestors.

“These findings challenge classical collapse theories and the new picture shows a long and gradual process due to both ecological and cultural changes. In particular, the evidence suggests that there was not an island-wide abrupt ecological and cultural collapse before the European arrival in 1722,” said Rull.

There is much work yet to be done before this mystery is solved, but it is clear that neither environmental nor human activities are solely responsible for the events on Easter Island. Only a combined approach that encompasses climate, ecology, and culture will fully explain how this ancient civilization went extinct.

The article is published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

 

(Text & Images’ Source: article by K.E.D. Coan, Frontiers)

 

 

 

 

 

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page

 

PULLMAN, Wash. – The heavily studied yet largely unexplained disappearance of ancestral Pueblo people from southwest Colorado is “the most vexing and persistent question in Southwestern archaeology,” according to the New York Times.

 

But it’s not all that unique, say Washington State University scientists.

 

Writing in the journal Science Advances, they say the region saw three other cultural transitions over the preceding five centuries. The researchers also document recurring narratives in which the Pueblo people agreed on canons of ritual, behavior and belief that quickly dissolved as climate change hurt crops and precipitated social turmoil and violence.

 

“The process of releasing one’s self from those canons, the process of breaking that down, can occur very quickly and occurred very quickly four times in the Pueblo past,” said Kyle Bocinsky, a WSU adjunct faculty member in anthropology and director of sponsored projects for the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colo. The article grew out of work toward Bocinsky’s WSU doctorate.

 

Pueblo-Bonito-by-Nate-Crabtree-web

Pueblo Bonito, one of the largest great houses in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon. It was built after one of several cultural transformations that WSU’s Kyle Bocinsky and Tim Kohler document in their Science Advances paper. (Photo by Nate Crabtree)

 

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Bocinsky, WSU Regents Professor Tim Kohler and colleagues analyzed data from just over 1,000 southwest archaeological sites and nearly 30,000 tree-ring dates that served as indicators of rainfall, heat and time. Their data-intensive approach, facilitated by climate reconstructions run at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, gives a remarkably detailed picture of year-to-year changes.

 

This is particularly important as droughts of just five or ten years were enough to prompt major shifts in the small niches where Pueblo people grew maize, their major crop.

 

The niches, said Kohler, were “woven together with a web of ceremony and ritual that required belief in the supernatural” to ensure plentiful rain and good crops. When rains failed to appear, he said, the rituals were delegitimized.

 

“Then there’s a point where people say, ‘This isn’t working. We’re leaving,’” he said.

 

That starts a period of exploration in which people look for new places to live and develop new ways of living, followed by a period of exploitation in a new niche with different behaviors and values.

 

“There’s a new period of wealth creation, investment in architecture and culture change,” said Kohler.

 

The researchers said the first period of exploitation, known as Basketmaker III, took place between 600 and 700 A.D. It ended with a mild drought and was followed by a period known as Pueblo I, in which the practice of storing maize in underground chambers gave way to storage in rooms above ground.

 

The researchers think this represents a shift from unrestricted sharing of food to more restricted exchanges controlled by households or family groups. The period ended around 890 with a slightly larger drought.

 

The exploitation phase of the Pueblo II period ran from 1035 to 1145 and was marked by large shared plazas and great houses—what we would today call McMansions—in the Chaco Canyon area south of Mesa Verde, Colo.

 

“We’re talking some of the largest—actually, the largest—prehistoric masonry structures in North America north of Mexico,” said Kohler. “These things are huge.”

 
Continua a leggere

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page

 

First largescale study of ancient DNA from early American people

The Doncela (The Maiden) Incan mummy was found at Mount Llullaillaco, Argentina, in 1999. The DNA of this mummy was used in the present genetic study, along with DNA from more than 90 other pre-Columbian humans. (Credit Johan Reinhard)

 

The first largescale study of ancient DNA from early American people has confirmed the devastating impact of European colonisation on the Indigenous American populations of the time.

 

Led by the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), the researchers have reconstructed a genetic history of Indigenous American populations by looking directly into the DNA of 92 pre-Columbian mummies and skeletons, between 500 and 8600 years old.

 

Published today in Science Advances, the study reveals a striking absence of the pre-Columbian genetic lineages in modern Indigenous Americans; showing extinction of these lineages with the arrival of the Spaniards.

 

“Surprisingly, none of the genetic lineages we found in almost 100 ancient humans were present, or showed evidence of descendants, in today’s Indigenous populations,” says joint lead author Dr Bastien Llamas, Senior Research Associate with ACAD. “This separation appears to have been established as early as 9000 years ago and was completely unexpected, so we examined many demographic scenarios to try and explain the pattern.”

 

“The only scenario that fit our observations was that shortly after the initial colonisation, populations were established that subsequently stayed geographically isolated from one another, and that a major portion of these populations later became extinct following European contact. This closely matches the historical reports of a major demographic collapse immediately after the Spaniards arrived in the late 1400s.”

 
Continua a leggere

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page

 

An ancient species of pint-sized humans discovered in the tropics of Indonesia may have met their demise earlier than once believed, according to an international team of scientists who re-investigated the original finding.

 

Published in the journal Nature this week, the group challenges reports that these inhabitants of remote Flores island co-existed with modern humans for tens of thousands of years.

 

They found that the youngest age for Homo floresiensis, dubbed the ‘Hobbit’, is around 50,000 years ago not between 13,000 and 11,000 years as initially claimed.

 

Led by Indonesian scientists and involving researchers from Griffith University’s Research Centre of Human Evolution (RCHE) the team found problems with prior dating efforts at the cave site, Liang Bua.

 

“In fact, Homo floresiensis seems to have disappeared soon after our species reached Flores, suggesting it was us who drove them to extinction,” says Associate Professor Maxime Aubert, a geochronologist and archaeologist at RCHE, who with RCHE’s Director Professor Rainer Grün measured the amount of uranium and thorium inside Homo floresiensis fossils to test their age.

 

Ass/Prof Maxime Aubert with the skull of the Homo floresiensis holotype skeleton (LB1). Aubert conducted Uranium-series dating of one of the bones from this skeleton, and bones from other 'hobbit' individuals from Liang Bua, to determine their age.

Ass/Prof Maxime Aubert with the skull of the Homo floresiensis holotype skeleton (LB1). Aubert conducted Uranium-series dating of one of the bones from this skeleton, and bones from other ‘hobbit’ individuals from Liang Bua, to determine their age.

 

“The science is unequivocal,’’ Aubert said.

 

“The youngest Hobbit skeletal remains occur at 60,000 years ago but evidence for their simple stone tools continues until 50,000 years ago. After this there are no more traces of these humans.”

 

While excavating at the limestone cave of Liang Bua in 2003, archaeologists found bones from diminutive humans unlike any people alive today. The researchers concluded the tiny cave dwellers evolved from an older branch of the human family that had been marooned on Flores for at least a million years. It was thought that this previously unknown population lived on Flores until about 12,000 years ago.
Continua a leggere

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page

 

Rare religious artifact found at ancient temple site in Italy is from lost culture fundamental to western traditions

 

The Etruscan stele was discovered embedded in the foundations of a monumental temple where it had been buried for more than 2,500 years. (Credit: Mugello Valley Project)

The Etruscan stele was embedded in the foundations of a monumental temple where it had been for more than 2,500 years. (Credit: Mugello Valley Project)

 

Archaeologists in Italy have discovered what may be a rare sacred text in the Etruscan language that is likely to yield rich details about Etruscan worship of a god or goddess.

 

The lengthy text is inscribed on a large 6th century BCE sandstone slab that was uncovered from an Etruscan temple.

 

A new religious artifact is rare. Most Etruscan discoveries typically have been grave and funeral objects.

 

“This is probably going to be a sacred text, and will be remarkable for telling us about the early belief system of a lost culture that is fundamental to western traditions,” said archaeologist Gregory Warden, co-director and principal investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project, which made the discovery.

 

The slab, weighing about 500 pounds and nearly four feet tall by more than two feet wide, has at least 70 legible letters and punctuation marks, said Warden, professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, main sponsor of the project.

 

Scholars in the field predict the stele (STEE-lee), as such slabs are called, will yield a wealth of new knowledge about the lost culture of the Etruscans.

 

The slab, weighing about 500 pounds and nearly four feet tall by more than two feet wide, has at least 70 legible letters and punctuation marks, likely with new words never seen before. (Credit: Mugello Valley Project)

The stele has at least 70 legible letters and punctuation marks, likely with new words never seen before.

 

The Etruscan civilization once ruled Rome and influenced Romans on everything from religion to government to art to architecture.

 

Considered one of the most religious people of the ancient world, Etruscan life was permeated by religion, and ruling magistrates also exercised religious authority.

 

The slab was discovered embedded in the foundations of a monumental temple where it had been buried for more than 2,500 years. At one time it would have been displayed as an imposing and monumental symbol of authority, Warden said.

 

The Mugello Valley dig, specifically the Poggio Colla site, is northeast of Florence, Italy.

 

The slab would have been connected to the early sacred life of the sanctuary there. The architecture then was characterized by timber-framed oval structures pre-dating a large temple with an imposing stone podium and large stone column bases of the Tuscan Doric type, five of which have been found at the site, Warden said.

 

“We hope to make inroads into the Etruscan language,” said Warden, president and professor of archaeology at Franklin University Switzerland. “Long inscriptions are rare, especially one this long, so there will be new words that we have never seen before, since it is not a funerary text.”

 

Scientists examine the Etruscan stele, weighing about 500 pounds and nearly four feet tall by more than two feet wide. (Credit: Mugello Valley Project)

Scientists examine the Etruscan stele, weighing about 500 pounds and nearly four feet tall by more than two feet wide. (Credit: Mugello Valley Project)

 

Conservation and study of the stele, with full photogrammetry and laser scanning to document all aspects of the conservation process and all details of the inscribed surfaces, is underway in the next few months at the conservation laboratories of the Tuscan Archaeological Superintendency in Florence by experts from the architecture department of the University of Florence. The sandstone, likely from a local source, is heavily abraded and chipped, with one side reddened, possibly from undergoing burning in antiquity. Cleaning will allow scholars to read the inscription.

 

“We know how Etruscan grammar works, what’s a verb, what’s an object, some of the words,” Warden said. “But we hope this will reveal the name of the god or goddess that is worshiped at this site.” The text will be studied and published by a noted expert on the Etruscan language, Rex Wallace, Professor of Classics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

 
Continua a leggere

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page

 

Kaizer Hill quarry, discovered in central Israel, demonstrates the changing attitudes to landscape in the transition from hunting-gathering to farming

 

Archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem uncovered in central Israel the earliest known Neolithic quarry in the southern Levant, dating back 11,000 years. Finds from the site indicate large-scale quarrying activities to extract flint and limestone for the purpose of manufacturing working tools.

 

In a research paper published in the journal PLOS One, a team of archeologists, led by Dr. Leore Grosman and Prof. Naama Goren-Inbar from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, showed how inhabitants of the Neolithic communities changed their landscape forever.

 

“Humans became more dominant and influential in their terrestrial landscape and Kaizer Hill quarry provides dramatic evidence to the alteration of the landscape,” said Dr. Grosman.

 

Kaizer Hill quarry is the first of its age, size and scope to be revealed in the southern Levant, where the Neolithic culture is believed to have begun and farming communities have developed. The introduction of farming is widely regarded as one of the biggest changes in human history, and “domestication” of the landscape was a significant process in the changing approach to nature.

 

The quarry is assigned to the Neolithic Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) culture, one of the incipient cultural stages in the shift from a hunter-gatherer to a farming way of life.

 

The gradual transition to agricultural subsistence, when people learned how to produce their food rather than acquiring it, was accompanied by a changing attitude to ‘landscape’ and the practices of using the surrounding nature for the benefit of humans.

 

“The economic shift, from hunter-gatherers to agriculture, was accompanied by numerous changes in the social and technological spheres. Various quarrying marks including cup marks showed that the cutting of stones was done in various strategies, including identifying potential flint pockets; creating quarrying fronts on the rocks; removing blocks to allow extraction of flint; creating areas for quarrying dump; and using drilling and chiseling as a primary technique for extracting flint,” said Prof. Goren-Inbar.

 

Researchers suggested a new interpretation to bedrock damage markings on the site of Kaizer Hill quarry, located on a 300 meter-high hill on the outskirts of the sprawling city of Modi’in, some 35 km west of Jerusalem.

 

“At the peak of the hill we found damaged rock surfaces, providing evidence to quarrying activity aimed at extracting flint nodules and exploiting the thick layer of caliche (a sedimentary rock locally known by the Arabic term Nari),” said Dr. Leore Grosman.

 

“The ancient people at the time carved the stone with flint working tools (for example axes). This suggestion differs from the commonly held view, which considers all features defined as cup marks to be devices that were primarily involved in a variety of grinding, food preparation, social or even symbolic activities,” researchers wrote in their paper.

 

(Text & Images’ Source: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

 

 

 

 

 

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page

 

Christina Warinner

 

NORMAN — Using advanced sequencing technologies, University of Oklahoma anthropologists demonstrate that human DNA can be significantly enriched from dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) enabling the reconstruction of whole mitochondrial genomes for maternal ancestry analysis — an alternative to skeletal remains in ancient DNA investigations of human ancestry.

 

Christina Warinner and Cecil M. Lewis, Jr., professors in the Department of Anthropology, OU College of Arts and Sciences, collaborated with researchers from Arizona State University and Pennsylvania State University on the capture, enrichment and high-throughput sequencing of DNA extracted from six individuals at the 700-year-old Oneota cemetery, Norris Farms #36.

 

“We can now obtain meaningful human, pathogen and dietary DNA from a single sample, which minimizes the amount of ancient material required for analysis,” said Warinner.

 

In recent years, dental calculus has emerged as an unexpected, but valuable, long-term reservoir of ancient DNA from dietary and microbial sources. This study demonstrates that dental calculus is also an important source of ancient human DNA. Very little dental calculus was required for analysis — fewer than 25 milligrams per individual. This makes it possible to obtain high quality genetic ancestry information from very little starting material, an important consideration for archaeological remains.

 

The results of this study provided high-resolution, whole mitochondrial genome information for the Oneota, a Native American archaeological culture that rose to prominence ca. AD 1000-1650, but declined sharply following European contact. “The analysis of mitochondrial DNA allows us to better understand the population history of ancient peoples,” said Anne Stone, professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University.

 

Although dental calculus preserves alongside skeletal remains, it is not actually a human tissue. Dental calculus, also known as tartar, is a calcified form of dental plaque that acquires human DNA and proteins passively, primarily through the saliva and other host secretions. Once mineralized within dental calculus, however, human DNA and proteins can preserve for thousands of years. Dental calculus thus serves as an important non-skeletal reservoir of ancient human DNA.

 
Continua a leggere

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInShare on RedditDigg thisPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on VKFlattr the authorShare on YummlyBuffer this pageEmail this to someonePrint this page