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Publication History View all

  • International Journal of Paleopathology. 01/2014; 6:20–29.
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    ABSTRACT: Early Medieval England is described historically as a time when people migrated from the Continent to English shores. This study tests the hypothesis that those buried in the Bowl Hole cemetery, Bamburgh, Northumberland were nonlocally born, because of its royal status. Ninety-one male and female adult, and nonadult, skeletons were studied. Isotope ratios of strontium ((87) Sr/(86) Sr) and oxygen (δ(18) O) were generated for 78 individuals (28 females, 27 males, five "adults," 18 nonadults). The mean Sr value for human enamel was 0.71044, standard deviation (sd) 0.001, and the mean O (δw) value is -5.9‰, sd 1.6‰. Additionally, animal tooth enamel (mean Sr value 0.710587, sd 0.001; mean O value -6.5‰, sd 1.5‰), local soil (mean Sr value 0.709184, sd 0.0006), snail shells (mean Sr value 0.708888, sd 0.0001), and soil samples from a 5 km transect heading inland (mean Sr value 0.709121, sd 0.0003), were analyzed for an indication of the isotopic composition of bioavailable Sr in the modern environment and to assess the impact of sea-spray; water samples from a well, local rivers, and standing water were analyzed for local δ(18) O values (mean O value -6.4‰, relative to VSMOW, sd 2.8‰). Over 50% of those buried at Bamburgh were nonlocal. All ages and both sexes produced "nonlocal" signatures; some suggested childhood origins in Scandinavia, the southern Mediterranean or North Africa. Stature and other indicators of health status indicated differences in quality of life between local and migrant groups. These differences did not extend to burial practices. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 06/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Though the process of domestication results in a wide variety of novel phenotypic and behavioural traits, coat colour variation is one of the few characteristics that distinguishes all domestic animals from their wild progenitors. A number of recent reviews have discussed and synthesised the hundreds of genes known to underlie specific coat colour patterns in a wide range of domestic animals. This review extends those studies by asking how what is known about the causative mutations associated with variable coat colours can be used to address three specific questions related to the appearance of coat colours in domestic animals. Firstly, is it possible that coat colour variation resulted as a by-product of an initial selection for tameness during the early phases of domestication? Secondly, how soon after the process began did domestic animals display coat colour variation? Lastly, what evidence is there that intentional human selection, rather than drift, is primarily responsible for the wide range of modern coat colours? By considering the presence and absence of coat colour genes within the context of the different pathways animals travelled from wild to captive populations, we conclude that coat colour variability was probably not a pleiotropic effect of the selection for tameness, that coat colours most likely appeared very soon after the domestication process began, and that humans have been actively selecting for colour novelty and thus allowing for the proliferation of new mutations in a range of coat colours.
    Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology 04/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: The fundamental shift associated with the domestication of plants and animals allowed for a dramatic increase in human population sizes and the emergence of modern society. Despite its importance and the decades of research devoted to studying it, questions regarding the origins and processes of domestication remain. Here, we review recent theoretical advances and present a perspective that underscores the crucial role that population admixture has played in influencing the genomes of domestic animals over the past 10000 years. We then discuss novel approaches to generating and analysing genetic data, emphasising the importance of an explicit hypothesis-testing approach for the inference of the origins and subsequent evolution and demography of domestic animals. By applying next-generation sequencing technology alongside appropriate biostatistical methodologies, a substantially deeper understanding of domestication is on the horizon.
    Trends in Genetics 02/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Treponematosis has been one of the most studied and debated infectious diseases in paleopathology, particularly from the standpoint of its origin, evolution, and transmission. This study links evidence for treponematosis in skeletons from the 14th-16th century AD cemetery of the Augustinian friary of Hull Magistrates Court, England, with data from stable isotope analysis to test the hypothesis that the people with treponemal disease buried at this site were not locally born and raised. The objective is to explore the potential of using stable isotope data to track the place of origin and extent of mobility of individuals with an infectious disease. Dental enamel samples of 12 skeletons were selected for strontium ((87) Sr/(86) Sr ratio) and oxygen (δ(18) O) stable isotope analysis based on the presence (six - diseased) or absence (six - controls) of bone changes associated with treponemal disease. The oxygen isotope ratios of all but three individuals (1047, 1121, 823) overlapped at two standard deviations with the inferred local precipitation range, and only one individual (1216) had a strontium isotope ratio outside the regional range. Two of the four had probable/possible treponemal bone changes. Those with treponemal bone changes were not demonstrably more likely to be migrants than those without such lesions. However, because of extensive documentary evidence for trade with the Baltic Sea area, and for merchants from towns such as Stralsund, Danzig and Elbing being in Hull, it is very plausible that the four migrants came from the Baltic area or even southern Sweden. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 12/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: Mobility and migration patterns of groups and individuals have long been a topic of interest to archaeologists, used for broad explanatory models of cultural change as well as illustrations of historical particularism. The 14th century AD was a tumultuous period of history in Britain, with severely erratic weather patterns, the Great Famine of 1315-1322, the Scottish Wars of Independence, and the Hundred Years' War providing additional migration pressures to the ordinary economic issues drawing individuals to their capital under more stable conditions. East Smithfield Black Death Cemetery (Royal Mint) had a documented use period of only 2 years (AD 1348-1350), providing a precise historical context (∼50 years) for data. Adults (n = 30) from the East Smithfield site were sampled for strontium and oxygen stable isotope analyses of tooth enamel. Five individuals were demonstrated to be statistical outliers through the combined strontium and oxygen isotope data. Potential origins for migrants ranged from London's surrounding hinterlands to distant portions of northern and western Britain. Historic food sourcing practices for London were found to be an important factor for consideration in a broader than expected (87) Sr/(86) Sr range reflected in a comparison of enamel samples from three London datasets. The pooled dataset demonstrated a high level of consistency between site data, divergent from the geologically predicted range. We argue that this supports the premise that isotope data in human populations must be approached as a complex interaction between behavior and environment and thus should be interpreted cautiously with the aid of alternate lines of evidence. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 12/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies have suggested that the presence of sea ice is an important factor in facilitating migration and determining the degree of genetic isolation among contemporary arctic fox populations. Because the extent of sea ice is dependent upon global temperatures, periods of significant cooling would have had a major impact on fox population connectivity and genetic variation. We tested this hypothesis by extracting and sequencing mitochondrial control region sequences from 17 arctic foxes excavated from two late-ninth-century to twelfth-century AD archaeological sites in northeast Iceland, both of which predate the Little Ice Age (approx. sixteenth to nineteenth century). Despite the fact that five haplotypes have been observed in modern Icelandic foxes, a single haplotype was shared among all of the ancient individuals. Results from simulations within an approximate Bayesian computation framework suggest that the rapid increase in Icelandic arctic fox haplotype diversity can only be explained by sea-ice-mediated fox immigration facilitated by the Little Ice Age.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 09/2012; 279(1747):4568-73.
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    ABSTRACT: The dog was the first domesticated animal but it remains uncertain when the domestication process began and whether it occurred just once or multiple times across the Northern Hemisphere. To ascertain the value of modern genetic data to elucidate the origins of dog domestication, we analyzed 49,024 autosomal SNPs in 1,375 dogs (representing 35 breeds) and 19 wolves. After combining our data with previously published data, we contrasted the genetic signatures of 121 breeds with a worldwide archeological assessment of the earliest dog remains. Correlating the earliest archeological dogs with the geographic locations of 14 so-called "ancient" breeds (defined by their genetic differentiation) resulted in a counterintuitive pattern. First, none of the ancient breeds derive from regions where the oldest archeological remains have been found. Second, three of the ancient breeds (Basenjis, Dingoes, and New Guinea Singing Dogs) come from regions outside the natural range of Canis lupus (the dog's wild ancestor) and where dogs were introduced more than 10,000 y after domestication. These results demonstrate that the unifying characteristic among all genetically distinct so-called ancient breeds is a lack of recent admixture with other breeds likely facilitated by geographic and cultural isolation. Furthermore, these genetically distinct ancient breeds only appear so because of their relative isolation, suggesting that studies of modern breeds have yet to shed light on dog origins. We conclude by assessing the limitations of past studies and how next-generation sequencing of modern and ancient individuals may unravel the history of dog domestication.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2012; 109(23):8878-83.
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    ABSTRACT: The myriad downstream applications of ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis all ultimately require that sequence data are generated from extracts of ancient material. DNA extraction from tissues known to contain preserved biomolecules (e.g. teeth, hair, tissue, bone) relies on subtle modifications of a basic technique that has been in use for nearly two decades. Multiple DNA extraction protocols have been introduced, with varying levels of success depending on tissue type and the long-term preservation environment to which the ancient tissue was exposed. Here, we describe the phenol-chloroform method for extracting aDNA from any tissue type. This commonly employed method allows for the recovery of total nucleic acid content with minimal loss of low molecular weight double-stranded DNA.
    Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 01/2012; 840:13-9.
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    ABSTRACT: Concerns over climate change and its potential impact on infectious disease prevalence have contributed to a resurging interest in malaria in the past. A wealth of historical evidence indicates that malaria, specifically Plasmodium vivax, was endemic in the wetlands of England from the 16th century onwards. While it is thought that malaria was introduced to Britain during the Roman occupation (AD first to fifth centuries), the lack of written mortality records prior to the post-medieval period makes it difficult to evaluate either the presence or impact of the disease. The analysis of human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts is the only potential means of examining P. vivax in the past. Malaria does not result in unequivocal pathological lesions in the human skeleton; however, it results in hemolytic anemia, which can contribute to the skeletal condition cribra orbitalia. Using geographical information systems (GIS), we conducted a spatial analysis of the prevalence of cribra orbitalia from 46 sites (5,802 individuals) in relation to geographical variables, historically recorded distribution patterns of indigenous malaria and the habitat of its mosquito vector Anopheles atroparvus. Overall, those individuals living in low-lying and Fenland regions exhibited higher levels of cribra orbitalia than those in nonmarshy locales. No corresponding relationship existed with enamel hypoplasia. We conclude that P. vivax malaria, in conjunction with other comorbidities, is likely to be responsible for the pattern observed. Studies of climate and infectious disease in the past are important for modeling future health in relation to climate change predictions.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 12/2011; 147(2):301-11.
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