Ancient DNA analysis of Neolithic Swedes (Funnel Beaker and Pitted Ware)

Migration in Prehistory : DNA and stable isotope analyses of Swedish skeletal material. Linderholm, Anna, Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.

ABSTRACT: The main aim of this thesis is to show how scientific methods may be used to look at migration in prehistory on the basis of archaeological material. The individuals examined represent the period 4 000 BC to 1 000 AD and have their geographical origins in various parts of Sweden.

Ancient DNA analysis is employed in three cases. The first is an investigation of the genetic profiles of the two main cultural groups, which existed in Sweden during the Neolithic, the Funnel Beaker (TRB) and Pitted Ware (PWC) cultures. We can deduce from these genetic data that they were two separate populations, and can see that the TRB genetic profiles continue into the Bronze Age whereas the PWC profiles seem to disappear. In a second analysis based on the same material we explore the ability of adults to digest milk, i.e. lactose tolerance, a genetic trait found in high frequencies in northern Europe. We can see that the TRB population had a higher frequency of this allele than the PWC population. The last paper based on aDNA analysis tackles a very important topic, that of contamination, which has to be understood and recognised, as it is fundamental to such analyses.

Stable isotope analysis lies behind the remaining papers, in three of which sulphur isotope analysis is used on skeletal material from Rössberga, Birka and Björned. The individuals buried at Rössberga appear to have been of local origin, in contrast to those buried at Birka and Björned. At Birka separate geographical origins can be deduced for individuals buried in different cemeteries or having different occupations. Whereas the people buried at Björned seem to have come there from different regions in order to establish a Christian colony. In the study on Öland, were the stable isotopes δ13C and δ15N were analysed in order to identify diet and the dietary shift connected with the Neolithic transition, this transition was found at the end of the Neolithic rather than at the beginning as previously hypothesised.


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