Some insights into the lives of builders of early Saint Petersburg

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In 2014, the unexpected discovery of some mass graves shed light on the earliest days of the newly founded city of Saint Petersburg. The graves could be dated to the beginning of the 18 th century, and analyses of the 255 excavated skeletons indicate that the individuals buried there were some of the workers who were forced to the construction sites and contributed tobuilding early Saint Petersburg. In this article, we aim to examine the possible origins of the workers and their general living conditions, including pathologies, diet and nutrition. For this, we will use various methods from archaeology, anthropology and isotopic analyses, and we will give some insights into the lives of those people.

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There have been various explanations in archaeological literature about whether the earliest Bronze Age stone-cist graves and the first Pre-Roman Iron Age tarand graves in Estonia were built by locals or non-locals. As to possible immigrations, the stone-cist graves have been often related to Scandinavian populations, whilst early tarand graves allegedly had roots in eastern directions. The oldest known examples of these cemetery types are at Jõelähtme and Muuksi for stone-cist graves, and at Ilmandu and Kunda for early tarand graves, in the coastal zone of northern Estonia. In order to test the migration hypothesis we carried out a bioarchaeological study, measuring and mapping local biologically available Sr and O isotope ratios and analysing stable isotope signals of altogether eight individuals from these early stone-cist and tarand graves. The study material was chosen on the basis of the oldest AMS dates of skeletons available so far, or according to the earliest burial constructions in the cemeteries. Based on the comparison of local biologically available Sr and O isotopic baseline results and the results obtained from the individuals, we can talk about migrants in the case of two persons from Kunda and perhaps one from Muuksi, whilst most of the individuals analysed are of local origin. Thus, the idea of Early Metal Period migrations to Estonia from the surrounding regions is supported to some extent. However, the discussion of these migrations might turn out to be surprisingly different from what is expected on the basis of material culture. We also emphasise the importance of further analysis, especially mapping isotopic baseline data in the eastern Baltics, in order to draw further conclusions about the directions and extent of prehistoric migration in this region.
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A Regionalized Climatic Water Isotope Prediction (RCWIP) approach, based on the Global Network for Isotopes in Precipitation (GNIP), was demonstrated for the purposes of predicting point- and large-scale spatiotemporal patterns of the stable isotope compositions of water (δ2H, δ18O) in precipitation around the world. Unlike earlier global domain and fixed regressor models, RCWIP pre-defined thirty-six climatic cluster domains, and tested all model combinations from an array of climatic and spatial regressor variables to obtain the best predictive approach to each cluster domain, as indicated by RMSE and variogram analysis. Fuzzy membership fractions were thereafter used as the weights to seamlessly amalgamate results of the optimized climatic zone prediction models into a single predictive mapping product, such as global or regional amount-weighted mean annual, mean monthly or growing-season δ18O/δ2H in precipitation. Comparative tests revealed the RCWIP approach outperformed classical global-fixed regression-interpolation based models more than 67% of the time, and significantly improved upon predictive accuracy and precision. All RCWIP isotope mapping products are available as gridded GeoTIFF files from the IAEA website ( ) and are for use in hydrology, climatology, food authenticity, ecology, and forensics.
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Iron Age societies of the eastern Eurasian steppe are traditionally viewed as nomadic pastoralists. However, recent archaeological and anthropological research in Kazakhstan has reminded us that pastoralist economies can be highly complex and involve agriculture. This paper explores the nature of the pastoralist economies in two Early Iron Age populations from the burial grounds of Ai-Dai and Aymyrlyg in Southern Siberia. These populations represent two cultural groups of the Scythian World – the Tagar Culture of the Minusinsk Basin and the Uyuk Culture of Tuva. Analysis of dental palaeopathology and carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes suggests that domesticated cereals, particularly millet, and fish formed a major component of the diet of both groups. The findings contribute to the emerging picture of the nuances of Early Iron Age subsistence strategies on the eastern steppe.
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Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios were measured in 157 fish bone collagen samples from 15 different archaeological sites in Belgium which ranged in ages from the 3rd to the 18th c. AD. Due to diagenetic contamination of the burial environment, only 63 specimens produced results with suitable C : N ratios (2.9-3.6). The selected bones encompass a wide spectrum of freshwater, brackish, and marine taxa (N = 18), and this is reflected in the delta C-13 results (-28.2 parts per thousand to -12.9%). The freshwater fish have delta C-13 values that range from -28.2 parts per thousand to -20.2 parts per thousand, while the marine fish cluster between -15.4 parts per thousand and -13.0 parts per thousand. Eel, a catadromous species (mostly living in freshwater but migrating into the sea to spawn), plots between -24.1 parts per thousand and -17.7 parts per thousand, and the anadromous fish (living in marine environments but migrating into freshwater to spawn) show a mix of freshwater and marine isotopic signatures. The delta N-15 results also have a large range (7.2 parts per thousand to 16.7 parts per thousand) indicating that these fish were feeding at many different trophic levels in these diverse aquatic environments. The aim of this research is the isotopic characterization of archaeological fish species (ecology, trophic level, migration patterns) and to determine intra-species variation within and between fish populations differing in time and location. Due to the previous lack of archaeological fish isotope data from Northern Europe and Belgium in particular, these results serve as an important ecological backdrop for the future isotopic reconstruction of the diet of human populations dating from the historical period (1st and 2nd millennium AD), where there is zooarchaeological and historical evidence for an increased consumption of marine fish.
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Strontium isotope analysis of archaeological skeletons has provided useful and exciting results in archaeology in the last 20 years, particularly by characterizing past human migration and mobility. This review covers the biogeochemical background, including the origin of strontium isotope compositions in rocks, weathering and hydrologic cycles that transport strontium, and biopurification of strontium from to soils, to plants, to animals and finally into the human skeleton, which is subject to diagenesis after burial. Spatial heterogeneity and mixing relations must often be accounted for, rather than simply ``matching'' a measured strontium isotope value to a presumed single-valued geologic source. The successes, limitations and future potential of the strontium isotope technique are illustrated through case studies from geochemistry, biogeochemistry, ecology and archaeology.
The high rate of crown caries (8.6%; 119/1,377 teeth) and other oral pathologies in 101 central Japan Middle to Late Jomon Period (ca. 1000 B.C.) crania indicate a level of carbohydrate consumption consistent with an agriculture hypothesis. Because Jomon dental crown and root morphology shows strong resemblances with past and present Southeast Asians, but not with ancient Chinese or modern Japanese, Jomon agriculture could be of great antiquity in the isolated Japanese islands. These dental data and other assembled facts suggest that ancestral Jomonese might have carried to Japan a cariogenic cultigen such as taro before the end of the Pleistocene from tropical Sundaland by way of the now-submerged east Asian continental shelf.
Criteria are presented for the identification of diagenetic alteration of carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of bone and tooth collagen prepared by a widely used method. Measurements of collagen concentrations in tooth and bone, atomic C:N ratios, and carbon and nitrogen concentrations in collagen of 359 historic and prehistoric African humans, and modern and prehistoric East African non-human mammals are described. Carbon isotope ratios of collagen lipids from four bones are also presented. Compared to bone, whole teeth have significantly lower collagen concentrations, lower carbon and nitrogen concentrations in collagen, and similar C:N ratios. Carbon and nitrogen concentrations and C:N ratios are relatively constant over a wide range of collagen concentrations. However, prehistoric specimens with very low collagen concentrations have highly variable C:N ratios, very low carbon and nitrogen concentrations in collagen, and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios unlike collagen. At the transition from well-preserved to poorly preserved collagen the most reliable indicator of collagen preservation is the concentration of carbon and nitrogen in collagen. Concentrations of C and N drop abruptly by an order of magnitude at this transition point. These attributes provide simple criteria for assessing sample quality. Since collagen preservation can vary greatly within prehistoric sites, these attributes should be reported for each specimen. Use of purification procedures that remove acid- and base-soluble contaminants and particulate matter (carbonates, fulvic acids, lipids, humic acids, sediments and rootlets) are recommended. Wider adoption of these procedures would insure comparability of results between laboratories, and permit independent and objective evaluation of sample preservation, and more precise dietary, climatic, and habitat interpretations of collagen isotopic analyses.
(87)Sr/(86)Sr reference maps (isoscapes) are a key tool for investigating past human and animal migrations. However, there is little understanding of which biosphere samples are best proxies for local bioavailable Sr when dealing with movements of past populations. In this study, biological and geological samples (ground vegetation, tree leaves, rock leachates, water, soil extracts, as well as modern and archeological animal teeth and snail shells) were collected in the vicinity of two early medieval cemeteries ("Thuringians", 5-6th century AD) in central Germany, in order to characterize (87)Sr/(86)Sr of the local biosphere. Animal tooth enamel is not appropriate in this specific context to provide a reliable (87)Sr/(86)Sr baseline for investigating past human migration. Archeological faunal teeth data (pig, sheep/goat, and cattle) indicates a different feeding area compared to that of the human population and modern deer teeth (87)Sr/(86)Sr suggest the influence of chemical fertilizers. Soil leachates do not yield consistent (87)Sr/(86)Sr, and (87)Sr/(86)Sr of snail shells are biased towards values for soil carbonates. In contrast, water and vegetation samples seem to provide the most accurate estimates of bioavailable (87)Sr/(86)Sr to generate Sr isoscapes in the study area. Long-term environmental archives of bioavailable (87)Sr/(86)Sr such as freshwater bivalve shells and tree cores were examined in order to track potential historic anthropogenic contamination of the water and the vegetation. The data obtained from the archeological bivalve shells show that the modern rivers yield (87)Sr/(86)Sr ratios which are similar to those of the past. However, the tree cores registered decreasing (87)Sr/(86)Sr values over time towards present day likely mirroring anthropogenic activities such as forest liming, coal mining and/or soil acidification. The comparison of (87)Sr/(86)Sr of the Thuringian skeletons excavated in the same area also shows that the vegetation samples are very likely anthropogenically influenced to some extent, affecting especially (87)Sr/(86)Sr of the shallow rooted plants.
We report here on stable carbon and nitrogen isotope measurements of human and faunal bone collagen from the Iron Age, Viking Age, and Late Medieval site of Newark Bay, Orkney, Scotland. We found a wide range of results for humans in both δ13C (−15.4‰ to −20.3‰) and δ15N (8.6‰–15.6‰) values. The enriched carbon and nitrogen values indicate the consumption of significant amounts of marine protein, which is very unusual for post-Mesolithic (e.g. 4000 cal BC) UK and European populations. Also of interest is a statistically significant difference in δ13C (t = −2.48, p = 0.011) and δ15N (t = −2.44, p = 0.011) values, and therefore diets, between adult males and females at this site, with males (δ13C = −17.8 ± 1.2‰, δ15N = 13.2 ± 1.6‰) having, on average, a higher proportion of marine protein than females (δ13C = −18.9 ± 1.1‰, δ15N = 11.8 ± 1.8‰). The weaning age of the sub-adults was difficult to interpret due to the large isotopic variation in the adult females, but nearly all individuals between birth and 1.25 years have elevated δ15N values indicating that they were breastfed to some extent.
Oxygen isotope analysis of archaeological human dental enamel is widely used as a proxy for the drinking water composition (δ(18)O(DW)) of the individual and thus can be used as an indicator of their childhood place of origin. In this paper we demonstrate the robustness of structural carbonate oxygen isotope values (δ(18)O(C)) in bioapatite to preserve the life signal of human tooth enamel by comparing it with phosphate oxygen isotope values (δ(18)O(P)) derived from the same archaeological human tooth enamel samples. δ(18)O(C) analysis was undertaken on 51 archaeological tooth enamel samples previously analysed for δ(18)O(P) values and strontium isotopes. δ(18)O(C) values were determined on a GV IsoPrime dual inlet mass spectrometer, following a series of methodological tests to assess: (1) The reaction time needed to ensure complete release of CO(2) from structural carbonate in the enamel; (2) The effect of an early pre-treatment with dilute acetic acid to remove diagenetic carbonate; (3) Analytical error; (4) Intra-tooth variation; and (5) Diagenetic alteration. This study establishes a direct relationship between δ(18)O(C) and δ(18)O(P) values from human tooth enamel (δ(18)O(P) =  1.0322 × δ(18)O(C) - 9.6849). We have combined this equation with the drinking water equation of Daux et al. (J. Hum. Evol. 2008, 55, 1138) to allow direct calculation of δ(18)O(DW) values from human bioapatite δ(18)O(C) (δ(18)O(DW)  =  1.590 × δ(18)O(C) - 48.634). This is the first comprehensive study of the relationship between the ionic forms of oxygen (phosphate oxygen and structural carbonate) in archaeological human dental enamel. The new equation will allow direct comparison of data produced by the different methods and allow drinking water values to be calculated from structural carbonate data with confidence.
It has become a widespread practice to convert δ(18)O(p) values measured in human and animal dental enamel to a corresponding value of δ(18)O(w) and compare these data with mapped δ(18)O(w) groundwater or meteoric water values to locate the region where the owner of the tooth lived during the formation of the enamel. Because this is a regression procedure, the errors associated with the predicted δ(18)O(w) values will depend critically on the correlation between the comparative data used to perform the regression. By comparing four widely used regression equations we demonstrate that the smallest 95% error is likely to be greater than ±1% in δ(18)O(w) , and could be as large as ±3.5%. These values are significantly higher than those quoted in some of the recent literature, and measurements with errors at the higher end of this range would render many of the published geographical attributions statistically unsupportable. We suggest that the simplest solution to this situation is to make geographical attributions based on the direct comparison of measured values of δ(18)O(p) rather than on predicted values of δ(18)O(w).
Teeth are brittle and highly susceptible to cracking. We propose that observations of such cracking can be used as a diagnostic tool for predicting bite force and inferring tooth function in living and fossil mammals. Laboratory tests on model tooth structures and extracted human teeth in simulated biting identify the principal fracture modes in enamel. Examination of museum specimens reveals the presence of similar fractures in a wide range of vertebrates, suggesting that cracks extended during ingestion or mastication. The use of 'fracture mechanics' from materials engineering provides elegant relations for quantifying critical bite forces in terms of characteristic tooth size and enamel thickness. The role of enamel microstructure in determining how cracks initiate and propagate within the enamel (and beyond) is discussed. The picture emerges of teeth as damage-tolerant structures, full of internal weaknesses and defects and yet able to contain the expansion of seemingly precarious cracks and fissures within the enamel shell. How the findings impact on dietary pressures forms an undercurrent of the study.
The first appearance of the Neolithic Linearbandkeramik (LBK) in Central Germany occurred during the 6th millennium BC. However, though LBK sites are abundant in the German loess areas, there are only a few studies that reconstruct the diet of these first farmers using biochemical methods. Here we present the largest study undertaken to date on LBK material using stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen to reconstruct human diet and animal husbandry strategies. We analyzed the bone collagen of 97 human individuals and 45 associated animals from the sites of Derenburg, Halberstadt and Karsdorf in the Middle Elbe–Saale region of Central Germany. Mean adult human values are −19.9 ± 0.4‰ for δ13C and 8.7 ± 0.8‰ for δ15N. The δ13C values are typical for terrestrial, temperate European regions, whereas the δ15N values fall within an expected range for farming societies with a mixed diet consisting of products from domestic animals and plants. The consumption of unfermented dairy products is unlikely as there is direct palaeogenetic evidence of lactose intolerance available for one of the sites. There are no clear indications for dietary differences in sex. Young children under three years of age are enriched in δ15N due to breastfeeding indicating that weaning likely occurred around the age of three years. The fauna exhibit mean δ13C values of −20.9 ± 0.8‰ and mean δ15N values of 7.0 ± 0.9‰ respectively. Variation in the δ13C and δ15N in the domestic animals is probably caused by different livestock managements.
Data on 55 modern cranial samples representing Uralic and other Eurasian populations were subjected to canonical variate (CV) and principal component (PC) analysis for 6 nonmetric and 14 metric traits, respectively. While PC1 and CV1 reveal strong east-to-west gradients among the Uralians, PC2 and CV2 separate most of them from the remaining groups, suggesting that they have descended from an ancestral proto-Uralian population. The biologically "Uralic" features survive in modern Uralic groups despite the fact that the initial split was followed by a long period of hybridization with widely dissimilar people. Our results confirm that the ancestors of many Turkish-speaking groups as well as the Yukaghirs belonged to the proto-Uralic community.
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