Population and pathogen dynamics among East European hunter-gatherer-fishers

Dietary ROOTSSampling of Stone Age skeletal remains in Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAS, Russia (photo: Anastasia Khramtsova).

Hunter-gatherer-fisher communities in Eastern Europe were part of trans-regional networks, the impact of which on Stone Age histories further west to the Baltic and beyond is currently only partially understood. These communication networks set the scene for the subsequent expansion of the genetically discernible steppe ancestry and associated herding strategies in the 3rd millennium cal BC. In this project we bring together expertise in biomolecular archaeology, palaeogenetics, and archaeology in order to trace dynamics between population histories, subsistence strategies and changes in diet, and the impact these had on nutritional and metabolic diseases. To gauge the effects of these dynamics, we are sampling human remains from prehistoric cemeteries, including several hunter-gatherer-fisher cemeteries in European Russia, believed to date to the 5th-4th millennia cal BC.
One problem is that of dating, as existing chronologies are usually inadequate because the dietary importance of aquatic resources to these groups means that radiocarbon dates on human bones would often be hundreds of years too old, as freshwater fish often have large 14C reservoir effects (FREs). To correct individual 14C ages for dietary reservoir effects we need detailed individual diet reconstructions and accurate estimations of the FRE in local fish. In the studied cemeteries, we can also follow a 'perfect pairs' approach, which is to find a robust correlation between one or more dietary stable isotope values and 14C age differences between human bones and associated organic grave goods, and to apply the resulting formula to human bones without datable grave goods.
Our multidisciplinary approach will allow us to date changes in diet and subsistence strategies, population genomics and the appearance of diseases more accurately, enabling the synchronisation with internal and regional socio-cultural and economic dynamics, exogenous events and archaeogenetic discoveries in other regions.

Project by Ben Krause-Kyora b.krause-kyora@ikmb.uni-kiel.de, John Meadows jmeadows@leibniz.uni-kiel.de, Almut Nebel a.nebel@mucosa.de, Henny Piezonka hpiezonka@ufg.uni-kiel.de, Guillermo Torres g.torres@ikmb.uni-kiel.de, Anastasia Khramtsova akhramtsova@gshdl.uni-kiel.de

Kiel team members:
ROOTS (Ben Krause-Kyora, John Meadows, Almut Nebel, Henny Piezonka, Guillermo Torres); Institute of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology, Kiel University, Germany (Anastasia Khramtsova)

Russian team members:
Ivanovo State University, Russia (E. L. Kostyleva, A.V. Utkin), Institute of Archaeology RAS, Russia (M.V. Dobrovol’skaya), Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAS, Russia (S.V. Vasiliev, E.V. Veselovskaya)


Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions