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Determining the Sex of Infanticide Victims From the Late Roman Era Through Ancient DNA Analysis


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Infanticide has since time immemorial been an accepted practice for disposing of unwanted infants. Archaeological evidence for infanticide was obtained in Ashkelon, where skeletal remains of some 100 neonates were discovered in a sewer, beneath a Roman bathhouse, which might have also served as a brothel. Written sources indicate that in ancient Roman society infanticide, especially of females, was commonly practised, but that females were occasionally saved and reared as courtesans. We performed DNA-based sex identification of the infant remains. Out of 43 left femurs tested 19 specimens provided results: 14 were found to be males and 5 females. The high frequency of males suggests selective preservation of females and that the infants may have been offspring of courtesans, serving in the bathhouse, supporting its use as a brothel.
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Journal of Archaeological Science (1998) 25, 861–865
Article No. as970231
Determining the Sex of Infanticide Victims from the Late
Roman Era through Ancient DNA Analysis
Marina Faerman and Gila Kahila Bar-Gal
Dental Division of Anatomy & Cell Biology, Hebrew University—Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine,
Jerusalem 91010, Israel
Dvora Filon
Department of Hematology, Hebrew University—Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem 91010, Israel
Charles L. Greenblatt
Department of Parasitology, Hebrew University—Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem 91010, Israel
Lawrence Stager
The Semitic Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Ariella Oppenheim
Department of Hematology, Hebrew University—Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem 91010, Israel
Patricia Smith
Dental Division of Anatomy & Cell Biology, Hebrew University—Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine,
Jerusalem 91010, Israel
(Received 24 March 1997, revised manuscript accepted 18 November 1997)
Infanticide has since time immemorial been an accepted practice for disposing of unwanted infants. Archaeological
evidence for infanticide was obtained in Ashkelon, where skeletal remains of some 100 neonates were discovered in a
sewer, beneath a Roman bathhouse, which might have also served as a brothel. Written sources indicate that in ancient
Roman society infanticide, especially of females, was commonly practised, but that females were occasionally saved and
reared as courtesans. We performed DNA-based sex identification of the infant remains. Out of 43 left femurs tested
19 specimens provided results: 14 were found to be males and 5 females. The high frequency of males suggests selective
preservation of females and that the infants may have been ospring of courtesans, serving in the bathhouse, supporting
its use as a brothel. 1998 Academic Press
Today archaeologists are paying increasing
attention to examining social structure within
past societies. While gender dierences have
been traditionally explored through identification of
grave goods considered indicative of female or
male roles, physical anthropology enables archae-
ologists to develop the study of mortuary practices
through identification of gender in relation to
burial type, even when grave goods are absent.
However, the problem of sex determination remains
0305–4403/98/090861+05 $30.00/0 1998 Academic Press
in dealing with fragmentary and/or infant burials. The
reliability of morphometric analyses for gender identi-
fication in infants is low, especially in the case of
incomplete skeletons.
Infant burials from the Neolithic to recent periods
frequently occur in Israel in dierent archaeological
contexts from those of older children or adults. These
infant remains may have been treated with great care,
as for example, the jar burials with grave goods found
at Middle Bronze Age Kabri (Kempinski & Niemeier,
1992), or alternatively treated with complete disregard
like the infants thrown into rubbish pits at Chalcolithic
Shiqmim (Levy et al., 1991), or into sewers in Late
Roman Ashkelon (Stager, 1991;Smith & Kahila,
1992). Knowing the gender of infants found in dierent
archaeological contexts has implications not only for
the type of burial accorded, but also the possible role
of gender in relation to the question of infant sacrifices
and infanticide.
Human settlement of Ashkelon dates back over 5000
years, and during most of this period Ashkelon was a
major seaport (Stager, 1993). It served the Canaanites
from c. 2000–1200 , and was one of five main
centres of the Philistines until 604 . Under Persian
hegemony Phoenicians from Tyre colonized the sea-
port from 525–300 . They, in turn, were successively
replaced by the Jews, the Greeks and finally the
Romans in the 1st century .
Skeletal remains of more than 100 neonates were
found during archaeological excavations by the Leon
Levy Expedition to Ashkelon (Stager, 1991;Smith &
Kahila, 1992;Faerman et al., 1997). The infant re-
mains were found in the sewer beneath a bathhouse,
built in the 4th century and used until the 6th century.
The infant bones had been discarded in the gutter of
the sewer along with animal bones, potsherds and
isolated coins; no signs of careful burial or associated
grave goods were observed. The casual method of
disposal contrasts sharply with the careful infant jar
burial from the same period discovered some 200 yards
away. Bone size, dental development and lack of
neonatal lines in the teeth indicated that they were all
neonates, 1–2 days old. The combination of early death
of so many infants and their mode of disposal implied
infanticide, rather than death from natural causes
(Smith & Kahila, 1992). None of the infants showed
evidence of disease or skeletal malformation, indicat-
ing that other factors, such as their gender, may have
been the motive for infanticide.
New developments in molecular biology, and
especially in analysing DNA recovered from ancient
bones, have provided reliable methods for gender
determination based on amplification of DNA
sequences specific to the X and/or Y chromosomes
(Gill et al., 1994;Faerman et al., 1995;Lassen,
Hummel & Herrmann, 1996;Stone et al., 1996).
This paper brings together material previously
discussed by Smith & Kahila (1992) and Faerman et al.
Materials and Methods
DNA was isolated from the bone powder, obtained
from left femurs only, to avoid testing the same indi-
vidual twice (Figure 1). Altogether 43 left femurs were
available for the analysis (29 complete and 14 fragmen-
tary). Bones were cleaned with a soft brush. The
surface layer was removed by electric drill (large bit),
and bone powder was obtained by drilling in a freshly
uncovered surface with a sterile small burr. Approxi-
mately 0·5–1·0 mg of bone powder was used for each
DNA extraction. DNA from each specimen was
extracted twice following the chelex purification pro-
cedure (Woodward et al., 1994). A third extraction was
performed and analysed at least 6 months later using a
silica-based purification method (Hoss & Paabo, 1993).
Ancient DNA studies are prone to numerous arte-
facts (Paabo, Giord & Wilson, 1988;Hagelberg &
Clegg, 1991). To eliminate contamination by DNA of
exogenous sources, stringent precautions were included
at every step. Disposable sterile tubes, filtered tips and
aliquoted sterile reagents and solutions, kept only for
ancient DNA work, were used throughout. DNA
extraction and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were
performed in dierent hoods, sterilized by UV light,
and located in two dierent rooms. Dierent sets of
pipettes were used for DNA extraction, PCR amplifi-
cation and analyses of the PCR products. Blank
extraction controls, containing no bone material, were
run in parallel with each set of experiments.
We have applied a highly sensitive method based on
PCR amplification of the X and Y amelogenin alleles
(Faerman et al., 1995). The reaction yields distinguish-
able X- and Y-chromosome products by the simul-
taneous use of three primers (Figure 2(a)). We
subjected 3, 7 and 11 ìl of each DNA extract to PCR
amplification along with a blank extraction control
and no DNA PCR control to monitor contamination
during the DNA extraction and PCR amplification.
Conditions for the PCR and the three primers (M4,
M5 and M6) have been described previously (Faerman
et al., 1995). Primer M7 (5-GTGACTATCTTAGA
ATCAGGAG-3), designed during this study (see
Figure 1. Left femurs of Ashkelon infants. Scale is 1 cm.
862 M. Faerman et al.
Results), was used in part of the experiments instead of
primer M5. We analysed 18 ìl aliquots on 2% Nusieve
agarose gel, stained with ethidium bromide. To verify
the authenticity of the X and Y amelogenin alleles, the
respective bands were sequenced. For this purpose 5 ìl
of the PCR products along with the appropriate
controls were subjected to additional 25 cycles, and the
re-PCR products were purified by electrophoresis on
1% low melting agarose gel (Filon et al., 1995).
Sequence analysis was performed using the allele-
specific primers with Sequenase Version 2.0 (USB).
Amplification was successful for 19 out of the 43
ancient specimens tested. Fourteen specimens were
found to be males and five females, giving a signifi-
cantly higher frequency of boys than girls (P<0·05).
The results for three specimens are shown in Figure
2(b). The success rates of the PCRs are given in Table
1. In total, data were obtained for 70 of 189 PCRs of
the 19 specimens. There were no inconsistencies or
conflicting data for any of the specimens. Furthermore,
the results for all the specimens, except specimen
No. 107, were reproduced on at least two separate
DNA extracts. The authenticity of the amplified
fragments was verified by direct sequencing of the
respective bands of male and female samples (not
Successful amplification was obtained for 44% of
the specimens examined, despite the antiquity and
friable condition of the bones, and these included a
significantly larger number of males than females.
In our experiments with contemporary DNA we
have noticed preferential amplification of the Y allele
when less than 25 pg DNA was used per reaction
(Faerman et al., 1995). We considered the possibility
that for some reasons (dierence in length of the
X- and Y-specific PCR products, or nature of the
primers) our test may miss females in highly degraded
DNA specimens. We therefore designed a new
X-specific primer, which together with the 5common
primer spans a smaller fragment (270 bp) than that
previously used (see Figure 2(a)). For the 24 bone
specimens which had not yielded amplifiable DNA, all
tests were repeated in full, including DNA extraction
and PCR amplification, with the new set of primers.
No amplification products were obtained in three
PCRs for each of two DNA extractions of each bone
specimen, a total of 144 PCRs.
The initial reasons for deciding that the individuals
analysed here were victims of infanticide were the lack
of infants aged more than 2 days and their casual
disposal in the sewer (Smith & Kahila, 1992). If the
Ashkelon sewer served as a public place for disposal of
infants who had died naturally, but were considered
too unimportant or too young for full burial rites, then
one would expect to find infants of up to at least 3
months of age. Full burial rites were apparently rarely
carried out for infants of less than 6 months of age.
Similar considerations, namely age distribution and
location, were adduced by Mays (1993) as proof of
infanticide in Roman Britain.
X chromosome
Y chromosome
M7 M5
M12 3456 7 M89101112131415 16
Figure 2. (a) Part of the amelogenin encoding gene showing the
location of the PCR primers. Fragment deleted in the Y chromosome
is indicated. (b) Sex identification of Ashkelon infants: M—size
marker (1 kb DNA ladder); lanes 1, 8, ‘‘no DNA’’ PCR control; lane
2, ‘‘blank extraction’’ control; lanes 3–5, specimen No. 100; lanes
9–11, specimen No. 94; lanes 12–14, specimen No. 96; positive
controls: lanes 6, 15, modern female DNA; lanes 7, 16, modern male
Table 1. Data on DNA-based sex identification of the Ashkelon infants
Successful PCRs*
ResultsExtract 1 Extract 2 Extract 3
90 1 0 1 Male
91 1 0 1 Male
92 3 2 2 Male
93 2 2 0** Male
94 2 2 2 Male
95 3 2 1 Male
96 2 3 1 Male
97 2 1 0** Male
98 2 3 0** Male
100 2 1 1 Female
104 1 1 0** Male
107 2 0 0** Female
119 2 0 2 Female
120 1 0 1 Female
122 1 2 2 Male
123 1 1 2 Male
216 1 1 0** Female
221 1 1 0 Male
234 1 1 0 Male
*3 PCRs were performed for each DNA extract.
**6 PCRs were performed for each of these DNA extracts.
Determining the Sex of Infanticide Victims 863
Classical authors provide ample and credible
evidence for infanticide in Graeco-Roman society
(cited in Brunt, 1971;Eyben, 1980–81;Pomeroy, 1984;
Wiedemann, 1989;Harris, 1994). Recent archaeologi-
cal discoveries attest to infanticide from one end of the
Roman empire to the other, from Ashkelon in Roman
Palestine (Smith & Kahila, 1992) to sites in Roman
Britain (Mays, 1993).
Once accepted as a parental prerogative, ocial
attitudes towards infanticide have changed over time.
Currently illegal in most societies, the practice of
infanticide is still widespread for a variety of cultural
and economic reasons (Langer, 1974;Williamson,
1978;Tooley, 1983). The justification for infanticide
rests in part on the assumption that new born infants
are not fully human, and in part on the importance of
controlling the size and the structure of the family and
society at large (Tooley, 1983).
Infanticide was often preferable to abortion as a
method of birth control and family planning: it allowed
for sex selection and birth order to be taken into
account, and it was less dangerous to the physical
well-being of the mother (Eng & Smith, 1976;Stager &
Wol, 1984). In Roman society according to Cicero,
malformed infants had to be destroyed, but many
healthy infants were also killed. The emperors
Augustus and Claudius issued edicts ordering the death
of infants born to members of their family accused of
The gender of a child was often an important factor
in deciding its fate. Most parents raised at least one
boy as an heir or support in old age. In contrast girls,
especially in patriarchal societies, were viewed as
burdens, especially if their marriage was dependent
on a dowry. In Roman society it was the father’s
decision alone that determined whether a new born
baby should be permitted to live. Under some circum-
stances girls who could be raised as performers or
prostitutes were preferentially kept (Fantham et al.,
The general consensus is that in both ancient and
modern societies more daughters than sons were se-
lected for infanticide (Pomeroy, 1983: 208). The most
vivid and explicit reference is from a letter, dated June
17, 1 , written by a certain Hilarion in Alexandria to
his expectant wife Alis in Oxyrhynchus. He writes ‘‘I
ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and
as soon as I receive payment I will send it up to you. If
you are delivered of child [before I get home], if it is a
boy keep it, if a girl discard it’’ (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus
744, translated in Lewis, 1985: 54). Thus, it comes as
something of a surprise to find so many boy infants
discarded in the sewer of Late Roman Ashkelon. Males
were present at significantly higher frequencies in our
subsample of 19, and there is only a very low prob-
ability (<0·001) that they were present in as few as 40%
of the entire sample (confidence levels for small
samples quoted in Simpson, Roe & Lewontin, 1960:
Bathhouses, both public and private, proliferated
throughout the Roman empire. Until the time of the
emperor Claudius, men and women bathed separately.
During his reign a single set of bathrooms replaced
the double set as mixed bathing came in vogue, over
the objections of some Romans, who were concerned
that bathhouses were becoming bordellos (Ward,
Ovid, writing in the time of the emperor Augustus,
oers this advice to a young woman on how to elude
the guardian and have sex in the baths: ‘‘While the
guardian keeps the girl’s clothes without, the numerous
baths hide furtive [i.e. sexual] sport’’ (Ars amatoria
3.939–40). Another author, writing in the time of Nero,
describes a father who went to the baths, leaving one
child at home, only to return from the baths a prospec-
tive father of two more (Ward, 1992: 134, citing
Nicharchus Anthologia Graeca 11.243). In his epi-
grammatic depiction of Roman life in the 1st century
, the poet Martial wrote: ‘‘The bathman lets you in
among the tomb-haunting whores only after putting
out his lantern’’ (Epigrams 3.93, translated by D. R.
Shackleton Bailey in Loeb Classical Library, vol. 1,
p. 269).
At the time when the Ashkelon bathhouse was in
use, the last great Roman historian Ammianus
Marcellinus (c. 330–395) records that when nobles,
‘‘each attended by fifty servants, have entered the
vaulted rooms of a bath, they shout in threatening
tones: ‘Where on earth are our attendants?’ If they
have learned that an unknown courtesan has suddenly
appeared, some woman who has been a common
prostitute of the crowd of the city, some old strumpet,
they all strive to be first to reach her . .. and extol her
with such disgraceful flattery as the Parthians do
Samiramis, the Egyptians their Cleopatras . . .’’
(Ammianus Marcellinus 28.4.9, translated by J. C.
Role in Loeb Classical Library, vol. 3, pp. 141–143).
There were both public and private bathhouses in
Roman Ashkelon. The small bathhouse, where infants
were discarded in the sewer beneath, was probably one
of many private baths run for profit in this seaport.
The proprietor welcomed sailors, merchants and any-
one else into the bathhouse with this enticing signpost:
‘‘Enter, enjoy, and . . .’’.
The bathhouse was built over earlier Roman villas,
including one with a room full of lamps decorated with
erotic images. The bathhouse was situated in what was
probably a well established part of the ‘‘red-light’’
district of Roman Ashkelon. The linkage of baths with
prostitution has been alluded to by classical authors
(cited in Dauphin, 1996) and reinforced by the archi-
tectural and epigraphic remains from Ashkelon. The
presence of both male and female victims in the gutter
beneath the bathhouse raises the intriguing possibility
that these infants may have been the unwanted o-
spring of courtesans serving in the bathhouse, thus
providing further supportive evidence for its use as a
864 M. Faerman et al.
At the same time this explanation may account for
the predominance of male infants discarded (assuming
that the limited subsample in which sex could be
determined is representative of the total population
of infanticide victims). Although both sexes were
recruited to work as prostitutes in the bisexual world of
the Romans, females were in greater demand. In the
Roman empire one of the primary sources of prostitu-
tion was abandoned children who had been rescued
and reared to work as prostitutes at an early age
(Rousselle, 1996: 299). We can imagine that the courte-
sans of Ashkelon selectively kept and reared some of
their illegitimate ospring (mostly females) in the
profession and discarded others.
This research was supported by the Israel Science
Foundation, administered by the Israel Academy of
Sciences and Humanities, and by the National Center
for Cooperation between Science and Archaeology.
The archaeological excavations were sponsored by
the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon (Israel) and by
the Semitic Museum, Harvard University. We also
acknowledge the comments of two anonymous
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Determining the Sex of Infanticide Victims 865
... In forensic contexts, the field recovery of fetal remains is more likely to occur in conjunction within the abdominal/pelvic area of the skeletal remains of the mother than if they occur in isolation. Alternately, juvenile remains recovery can be situational, with fetal or infant remains sometimes recovered in abundance in archaeological sites where they have been concentrated by cultural practices, such as via infanticide at the Roman site of Ashkelon in Israel (Faerman et al. 1998;Smith and Avishai 2005) or Hambleden Roman villa in England (Mays and Eyers 2011). Pokines and De La Paz (2016) performed an experiment regarding fully skeletonized human fetal remains and their recoverability using different size meshes in a laboratory setting. ...
The methods used to recover skeletal remains from an excavation, surface scene, or other forensic context can directly influence the amount and types of skeletal material available for analysis and hence the interpretations that can be made. The limitations of any recovery method therefore must be understood to avoid misinterpretation regarding other causes of bone loss, including consumption or dispersal by scavengers, destruction by acidic soil, or human-caused trauma and dismemberment. The factors that can contribute to the non-recovery of bone include (1) inadequate screen mesh relative to the remains being sought within sediments (especially among juvenile remains), (2) surface search methods that do not allow for adequate visualization by the searchers, (3) natural bone camouflage, including soil staining and thermal alteration, (4) difficult environments, such as underwater, (5) a lack of training of or fatigue by recovery personnel, (6) destructive handling procedures, including the forces of recovery themselves.
... Амплификация фрагментов палеоДНК, локализованных на половых X и Y-хромосомах, позволяет однозначно идентифицировать половую принадлежность останков. В литературе описаны методы, позволяющие проводить одновременную амплификацию фрагментов ДНК, специфичных для половых хромосом X и Y (Faerman et al. 1998). Эти фрагменты представляют участки уникального гена амелогенина. ...
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In the first part of our multivolume work we present materials to give a detailed characteristic of the Chemurchek cultural phenomenon – the complex of West European megalithic traditions spreaded over the foothills of the Mongol Altai (from the Russian Altai region to Trans-Altai Gobi) in 3rd – early 2nd millenium BC (Ковалев 2011, 2012б; Kovalev 2011). In 1998-2000 the International Central-Asian Archaeological Expedition organized by A. Kovalev in cooperation with the Institute of Archaeology of Kazakhstan undertook excavations of twelve rectangular stone enclosures of the Early Bronze Age in the Alkabek River basin (Eastern-Kazakhstan region) near the Chinese border. Since 2003 our expedition with support of State Museum of Roerichs in collaboration with the Institute of History of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and the Ulaanbaatar University excavated eleven barrows in Bulgan sum of Khovd aimag and four rectangular burial enclosures in Ulankhus sum of Bayan-Olgii aimag too. One barrow (Kurgak-Govi 2) had been coupled with the barrow Kurgak-Govi 1 of Afanasievo culture at a separate burial place. Barrows excavated in the Alkabek River basin consisted of rectangular enclosures made of stone slabs; an “entrance” made of huge slabs was placed in the middle of the eastern side of the enclosure. A dry-stone corridor (passage) made of small flat slabs led to the burial pit. The walls of these corridors surrounded the burial pit. In all barrows, without exceptions, burial pits were situated 2-5 meters eastwards from the center towards the “entrances”. These constructions with passages, built using dry walling, mostly resembled late “pseudo-gallery” megalithic burials of Provence and Languedoc dated from the end of 4th - the beginning of 3rd millennium B.C. Ritual places excavated by our expedition in Bayan-Olgii looked like rectangular stone enclosures, oriented along their longer sides in a west-east direction (Kulala-Ula – north-south), with primary ritual pits and secondary burials. Stone pillars were erected by the front sides of the three of four abovementioned mounds. Rectangular stone enclosures, accompanied by stelae erected by the front side find their analogies among the monuments of Western France, dated from the 4th millennium B.C. The burial places of Bulgan look like huge stone boxes, oriented east-westwards and constructed of massive stone slabs which are situated on the ancient surface or inserted into the soil, and used as a crypt for many burials (up to 10 persons). Stone boxes were reinforced from the outside (not covered) by surrounding stone or soil cairns which overlapped one another and were supplied with “facades” of slabs or light boulders. Near the eastern sides of the barrow Yagshiin Khodoo 3 and Khukh Uzuuriin Dugui I-1 statues were erected. Similar megalithic sepulchers with facades, overlapping each other like “onion skin” originated in Brittany and Normandy in the first half of the 5th millennium B.C., they dominated within the Western France, partly in Ireland and England, and were spread within Languedoc at the end of 4th – the beginning of 3rd millennium B.C. Numerous 14C dates, obtained from the samples from excavated mounds, gave us an evidence that these monuments were synchronous in general and belonged to the period from the middle of the 3rd to the beginning of the 2nd millennium B.C. Artifacts discovered by us were similar with findings from “Ke’ermuqi burial site” and from other analogous sites of Xinjiang, which belonged to the same period. Also similarities have been revealed in the architecture of sepulchers, in the burial rite, in the style of ochre drawings and stone sculptures. That is why all these sites should be considered as belonged to a single cultural area. These burial monuments suddenly appeared in the foothills of Mongol Altai from Zaisan Lake to the Tien Shan not later than in the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. and showing a number of specific features which distinguish them from all the other known monuments of the Early Bronze Age of Asia and Eastern Europe. This cultural complex have been called “The Chemurchek Cultural Phenomenon”. All specific features are not represented in every mound, but they are spread over separate regions, resulting in the origin of peculiar types of burial constructions. The independent, but simultaneous, appearance of several original innovations of burial construction in one and the same region appears quite impossible. We can suppose that firstly there was one source of all these innovations, but later people of a single culture spread over the Altai and preserved separate and different combinations of features of the burial rite traditions. It emerges that this situation is found in Western and Southern France. Besides the abovementioned analogies in the construction of burial mounds, we can find in this distant region similarity in the form and ornamentation of vessels, in red ochre paintings and in the decoration of stone sculptures (Kovalev 2011). Unique ceramic/stone vessels tradition is characterized by spheroid, ellipsoid jars, and also flat bottom pots, slightly narrowing to the mouth and base; vessels do not have any emphasized neck or flared mouth, the mouths of all vessels being slightly contracted. The most usual type of decoration looks like a horizontal line with triangular scallops stretched under a vessel’s rim. Pottery of such shapes, almost without decoration, is characteristic of the Late and Final Neolithic in the West, South and East France, in Western Switzerland and also in Spain. Stone statues chiseled by “Chemurchek people” are an absolutely peculiar phenomenon in the territory of Asian steppes in the 3rd millennium BCE. Only some statues-menhirs from Southern France in the same way are characterized by the protruding contour of the perimeter of a face, connected with a straight nose, with the eyes shown by protruding circles or disks, the shoulder-blades marked by two curls, and one or several girdles decorating the neck. In Chemurchek burials we discovered drawings made with red ochre looking like rows of triangular scallops, which can be compared with ochre drawings and gravures in Spain, France, Switzerland and North Italy. All the analogies from Western Europe were dated from the period preceding the appearance of Chemurchek monuments in the Altai. Nothing like those kinds of burial construction and pottery has been ever found among the monuments of the 3rd millennium BCE at the territory between France and Altai. This is why some suppose that part of the population of South-Western Europe migrated to the Altai at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BCE.
... If DNA is particularly well-preserved in samples, then it is sometimes possible to access nuclear DNA, and this is increasingly the case with the application of NGS. This method allows the investigation of specific gene 741 Chapter Three function (Coop et al. 2008;Jaenicke-Despres et al. 2003;Lalueza-Fox et al. 2008;Svensson et al. 2007), and it can identify biological sex (Cappellini et al. 2004;Cunha et al. 2000;Faerman et al. 1995;Faerman et al. 1998;Stone et al. 1996). Sex determination has probably been the most common application of ancient nONA, and given that sex is chromosomally determined, one can either target the X or the Y chromosome for this purpose. ...
... A striking example of male-biased infanticide emerged from the genetic sex determination of 100 neonates discovered in a sewer beneath a Roman bathhouse in Ashkelon, Israel. Fourteen of the 19 neonates for which DNA extraction was successful were boys, which suggests that the girls might have been raised to work in the brothel, whereas the boys were disposed of (Faerman et al. 1998). It is unclear, however, how representative this extraordinary context is; no sex bias was found in the infants buried in a settlement context of Romano-British Hambleden (Abu-Mandil Hassan et al. 2014). ...
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The identification of sex-specific peptides in human tooth enamel by nanoflow liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrom-etry (nanoLC-MS/MS) represents a quantum leap for the study of childhood and social relations more generally. Determining sex-related differences in prehistoric child rearing and mortality has been hampered by the insufficient accuracy in determining the biological sex of juveniles. We conducted mass spectrometric analysis to identify sex-specific peptides in the dental enamel of a child from a settlement pit of the Early Bronze Age settlement of Schleinbach, Austria (c. 1950-1850 BC). Four perimortal impression fractures on the skull of a 5-6-year-old child indicate an intentional killing, with a co-buried loom weight as possible murder weapon. Proteomic analysis, conducted for the first time on prehistoric teeth in Austria, determined the child's sex as male. While we cannot conclusively determine whether the child was the victim of conflicts between village groups or was slain by members of his own community, we suggest that contextual evidence points to the latter. A possible trigger of violence was the follow-on effects of an uncontrolled middle ear infection revealed by an osteological analysis. The boy from Schleinbach highlights the potential for further investigation of gender-biased violence, infanticide and child murder based on the recently developed method of proteomic sex identification.
... Richard'ın muhtemelen sarı saçlı ve mavi gözlü olduğunu ve bu tipolojinin de kralın o dönem çizilmiş resmi ile örtüştüğünü ortaya koymuştur. 43,44 NÜFUS HAREKETLERİ VE GÖÇLER Günümüz modern insanının (Homo sapiens) yaklaşık 200 bin yıl önce Afrika'da ortaya çıktığı ve zamanla tüm kıtalara yayıldığı antropolojik, arkeolojik ve genetik çalışmalarla bilinmektedir. Avcı-toplayıcı yaşam biçimine sahip bu insanlar günümüzden 12 bin yıl önce tarıma başlamış, bitkileri ıslah etmiş, hayvanları evcilleştirmiş ve yerleşik hayata geçmişlerdir. ...
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The first biomarker used at the molecular level to distinguish humans from each other is the A, B, AB and O blood groups discovered by Karl Landsteiner in the early 20th century. The discoveries of the double-stranded structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule, which contains all the necessary genetic code for survival of living things, by James Watson and Francis Crick in mid-century, and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which allowed the desired part of DNA to be amplified, by Kary B. Mullis in the last quarter of the same century, facilitated the development of new technologies and methods by creating very important leaps in molecular biology and genetics. These newly developed technologies and methods have made, by creating a locomotive force, very important contributions to molecular anthropology, forensic anthropology and forensic sciences, that have been developing in parallel with the fields of molecular biology and genetics. Ancient DNA sheds light on the molecular histories of living things, by using themethods and techniques developed in these fields and also by conceiving new techniques and methods specific to its specific field of study. Although there are some inherent difficulties in aDNA studies, contamination being the most emphasized, these studies make it easier to understand the evolution changes in many species, especially modern humans (Homo sapiens), over time by enlightening their molecular history. Evolution and phylogenetic relationships, identification, kinship analysis, gender determinations, the origins and spread of diseases, biological characteristics of extinct life forms and determination of migratory pathways of some species are the main topics of aDNA studies.
... Here we report for the first time complete ancient mitogenomes from foetal-aged bone fragments. Previous studies have used PCR-based methods to determine the genetic sex of neonates (Faerman et al., 1998;Waldron et al., 1999;Irish et al., 2008), but no mitogenomes or genome-wide data have been published to date. Using next-generation sequencing to generate whole mitogenomes results in a more detailed analysis of the haplotype than a PCR-based approach, where typically only fragments of the non-coding region are amplified. ...
Human remains from the Iron Age in Atlantic Scotland are rare, which makes the assemblage of an adult female and numerous foetal bones at High Pasture Cave, on the Isle of Skye, particularly noteworthy. Archaeological evidence suggests that the female had been deposited as an articulated skeleton when the cave entrance was blocked off, marking the end of use of the site. Particularly intriguing is the deposition of disarticulated remains from a foetus and perinate close to the adult female, which opens the possibility that the female might have been the mother of both of the infants. We used shotgun genome sequencing in order to analyse the mitochondrial genomes of all three individuals and investigate their maternal relationship, and we report here, for the first time, complete ancient mitogenomes from foetal-aged bone fragments. While we could not exclude the possibility that the female was the mother of, or maternally related to, the foetus, we could definitely say that she was not the mother of the perinate buried alongside her. This finding is contrary to the standard archaeological interpretation, that women in such burials most likely died in childbirth and were buried together with their foetuses.
The last decade has seen major advances in the study of ancient DNA from humans and other species, driven by the application of next‐generation sequencing (NGS) techniques and the discovery that the densely packed bone of the petrous otic capsule provides a favourable environment for DNA preservation. The advent of NGS techniques has provided greater scope to kinship studies but sex identification, and basic studies of maternal relationships via mitochondrial DNA typing, are still frequently carried out by ‘old‐fashioned’ methods based on the polymerase chain reaction. The traditional method of sexing human skeletal remains makes use of dimorphic bone morphology allied with morphometric data obtained from reference collections of modern or recent human populations. DNA‐based kinship analysis is also contributing to a more general understanding of social structure at prehistoric settlement sites.
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Sex estimation of skeletons is fundamental to many archaeological studies. Currently, three approaches are available to estimate sex–osteology, genomics, or proteomics, but little is known about the relative reliability of these methods in applied settings. We present matching osteological, shotgun-genomic, and proteomic data to estimate the sex of 55 individuals, each with an independent radiocarbon date between 2,440 and 100 cal BP, from two ancestral Ohlone sites in Central California. Sex estimation was possible in 100% of this burial sample using proteomics, in 91% using genomics, and in 51% using osteology. Agreement between the methods was high, however conflicts did occur. Genomic sex estimates were 100% consistent with proteomic and osteological estimates when DNA reads were above 100,000 total sequences. However, more than half the samples had DNA read numbers below this threshold, producing high rates of conflict with osteological and proteomic data where nine out of twenty conditional DNA sex estimates conflicted with proteomics. While the DNA signal decreased by an order of magnitude in the older burial samples, there was no decrease in proteomic signal. We conclude that proteomics provides an important complement to osteological and shotgun-genomic sex estimation.
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Discriminant functions have long been used to classify individuals into groups according to the dimensions of their bones. Although lengths, widths, and diameters have been extensively used, the circumferences have not been adequately validated. In this work, the importance that the circumferences of long bones can have in assigning the sex of ancient human remains is demonstrated. The functions produced by using just one circumference achieved accuracies higher than 80%, and circumference at the radial tuberosity of the radius is able to classify 92.8% of skeletons from the Late Roman site of Mas Rimbau/Mas Mallol (Spain). When functions are produced by using more than one circumference, they can achieve the uppermost classification attained in this sample. The functions also showed that the arm circumference functions are more useful than those of the leg, probably because male individuals of the population had greater mechanical stress than did females. The classification percentages, as well as other statistical values for the functions, demonstrated the great ability of long bone circumferences in helping to classify the sex of individuals of other sites of the Mediterranean area besides the ones examined in this study. Am J Phys Anthropol 113:317–328, 2000. © 2000 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
The advent of DNA-based sex determination of skeletal remains has had major impacts on the fields of biological and forensic anthropology. This is especially true for remains where the use of traditional techniques is not useful, such as juvenile remains, fragmentary remains, or remains with ambiguous sex characteristics. DNA sex determination has opened new avenues of exploration for past population studies of marriage and burial patterns, sex-based differences in mortality and disease rates, and other anthropological questions. However, DNA cannot be extracted from all remains, due to taphonomic degradation or poor DNA preservation. In these cases, traditional anthropological techniques will continue to be the sole means of assessing the sex of the individual.
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Because the Holy Land occupies a land bridge between the two great centers of early Near Eastern culture - Egypt and Mesopotamia - the Holy Land and its social evolution have usually been linked to these core areas of ancient civilization. Recent excavations in Israel's northern Negev Desert at the late 5th to early 4th millennium BC settlement of Shiqmim provide insights into the growth and decline of the earliest agro-pastoral settlement system in the Beersheva Valley. The new data point to a local growth process with little direct influence from the outside world. Numerous radiocarbon determinations, extensive systems of subterranean rooms in the lowest occupation levels, and a planned open-air settlement in the latest stratum, challenge theories concerning the developmental history of human societies in this part of the Near East. Analyses of fauna and craft specialization in metal add insights into the emergence of the Mediterranean economy and social complexity in the ancient Levant. -Authors
Age-distributions of perinatal infants from Romano-British sites and a medieval site are different and may reflect different major causes of death. Whilst the medieval infants probably represent natural deaths, the Romano-British infants, from both cemetery and non-cemetery sites, may mainly represent victims of infanticide.