Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Analysis of Late-Middle Neolithic Husbandry Practices and Social Interactions in Southeast Poland Using Ancient DNA and XRF Strontium
Milisauskas, Sarunas Principal Investigator
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Under the direction of Dr. Sarunas Milisauskas, Ms Marie-Loraine Pipes will collect data for her doctoral dissertation. Her project investigates animal husbandry practices and social interactions between three late-middle Neolithic (3800-3100 BC) settlements in southeastern Poland by identifying maternal ties in sheep from closely spaced settlements through mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes, and using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analysis to distinguish between local and non-local individuals. Identifying maternal relatedness in sheep across sites and distinguishing local from nonlocal sheep makes possible investigation of breeding and livestock transfer practices and gives insight into social relationships between households and across settlements enabling these activities. Two hypotheses will be tested: 1) Maternal relatedness in sheep can be detected using mtDNA analysis to identify haplotypes within matrilines; 2) Non-local and local sheep can be distinguished using X-ray Fluorescence Strontium to measure strontium levels in teeth and bones. The results will be interpreted in conjunction with ethnographic studies that focus on the role that animal husbandry practices plays in structuring social relationships within small scale subsistence agricultural and pastoral societies. Livestock exchange occurs through exchange, gifting, debt repayment and replacement and results in the creation and maintenance of social bonds between social groups. The proposed model will show how social interactions between households and settlements can be examined by investigating animal husbandry practices, specifically breeding and the introduction of non-local animals, through mtDNA and XRF strontium analyses to show maternal relatedness and spatial mobility. This project contributes specifically to the understanding of late-middle Neolithic husbandry practices, breed research, and small scale social interactions in low level hierarchical societies. It adds to the growing body of animal genetics, especially the development of sheep breeds after domestication but before large scale herd production in central Europe. It presents a model that integrates livestock maternal relatedness and spatial mobility data and social interactions between settlements and households. Furthermore the model serves as a template for the investigation of cultural practices involving livestock management and social relationships applicable to any place or time. This collaborative effort brings together researchers from various backgrounds including the Ancient DNA and Molecular Anthropology laboratories at Binghamton University, the School of Dentistry at the University at Buffalo, the Anthropology Department at the University at Buffalo, and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Kraków, Polish Academy of Sciences. It provides an opportunity for graduate students to work on archaeological materials and to learn about the use and applications of specialized analyses. The results will be published in articles submitted to peer-reviewed journals, and disseminated through research presentations at major conferences. A website will also be created.