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Paleodieta for the Ancient Man
Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) and Harvard University have signed an agreement to work together on the remains of ancient people found in Primorye
- Recently your scientific group began to cooperate with scientists from Harvard University. Tell us, what is the essence of the joint work and who initiated it?
- Studies of ancient genetic chains are now, as they say, on the edge of science, it is popular and in demand. But the problem for genetic scientists is the lack of material. If the material is - there is that decipher. We, scientists, work, publish, communicate with colleagues, plus the university has the material that can be claimed for the decoding of ancient genomes.
Initially, they appealed about a single monument, quite famous - Boisman-2 from Khasansky district of Primorye. A neolithic burial ground was excavated there - an ancient cemetery - 5,5-6 was thousands of years old. Two bones from there are exhibited in the FEFU Museum. These materials today are the most ancient of human remains, preserved more or less well, on a fairly extensive territory - on the entire Pacific coast of the country. These are unique things that are rarely found. There are, of course, materials of similar age, for example, on the Japanese islands, in South Korea, but another population lived there. Therefore, from Tumangan to Anadyr are the most ancient bone remains.
Dr. Alexander Kim, a Harvard researcher, came to us, and before that we sampled — small fragments of certain parts of ancient skeletons. According to our proposal, material was selected from several burial grounds of different time sections. The first is the 5-6 age of thousands of years (Neolithic), the second cut is the early Iron Age, when a person living on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, already begins to domesticate animals and engage in agriculture - about 2,5 thousands of years ago. The third time section is the early Middle Ages (5 - 10 centuries AD, e), when the Mohesian tribes, which were the main population of the Bohai state, inhabited the territory of the south of the Russian Far East. These materials were found in Primorye, one burial ground - south of Lake Khanka, the other - in 400 km to the north.
Harvard scientists, we handed over materials from the burial of the Iron Age (2,5 thousands of years ago), which was investigated on Russky Island during the rescue excavations before the construction of APEC facilities.
It is very interesting for us to know how closely related the tribes lived in these different periods in Primorye. Now we can only assume this, based on archaeological finds, on the ornaments of dishes, on how the material culture changes. Determine whether this is a family or the development of genetically related people, is now quite difficult. It is believed that at different periods of time the material culture and various ethnic groups inside the Mongoloid race changed quite sharply. And if we carry out such an analysis in different time sections, we can establish how tribal were related, from what group they are, to whom it is closer from the living nationalities.
- What is the interest of Harvard scientists in this work? Do you plan joint publications on research results?
- Of course, the result of the work will be joint publications. It is one thing to offer genetic interpretation, another thing is to impose it on the archaeological context, on the ethnic context according to published sources, or for the Middle Ages - by the annals. According to Chinese sources, we know how the studied tribes were called, how they belonged to language groups. Thus, it makes sense to work together, because a simple analysis of the genetic code is not entirely interesting.
- Coda is expected the first results of the study of archaeological material provided by the Harvard scientist?
- Our American colleagues are very interested in this work, because while the study of the genome of ancient populations is a white spot in genetics, and scientists have just started to study it. They have a project on East Asia, and our northern colleagues are very interested in the northern sector of the Pacific. Samples have already been processed, and either in late December or early next year, we hope there will be results.
When you associate with archeology, you must get lucky. After all, there may not be enough genetic material in those samples that we gave to the study, perhaps the conditions did not allow some materials to be preserved, or some factors influenced the sample itself. But while the work is underway, we are waiting for its results.
- Do you plan to cooperate with Harvard scientists in the future?
- Of course, we are planning. And everything will depend on what kind of things we will find, and also on what other possibilities genetic science will disclose. Perhaps the materials will continue to be in demand for deeper analysis, because if 10 years ago, genetics could decipher the short chains of ancient genomes, now there are much more opportunities, and in a few years, perhaps, there will be a global breakthrough that will allow us to return to the well-known materials and to study them more deeply. Therefore, the fundamental collections of the FEFU museum are not just unique findings, they are the past, the present and the future of science. If we discover new objects, we will discuss with our American colleagues joint projects, so that the findings are in demand and thoroughly studied.
- You mentioned a monument found on Russian Island in Vladivostok. What excavations were carried out on the island before the construction of the APEC summit facilities?
On one monument on Pospelov cape we found an ancient burial, two more monuments we found in the village of Canal. In the bay of Ajax we found a Neolithic dwelling - a foundation pit of about 5 thousand years. Finding a home on the island does not happen often, since most of the people on the island who came here for seasonal hunting, found places convenient for food, where the most amount of food resources could be obtained with the least cost, sea mollusks, but there were also terrestrial animals. Most of the parking lots were located in the coastal part of the island. In total, we dug out five monuments and plotted about 20 on the map.
-Tell about the archaeological season of this year. Where were the excavations carried out, were unique materials found?
- Any archaeological site for any archaeologist is an unique object. No matter how many materials we find, there will always be something new. Of course, not every year we find the "helmet of Alexander the Great" or an object that is of general interest, such as human remains from the Boyman-2 burial ground. Sometimes archaeologists search for a lifetime and do not find.
The second monument is a scientific excavation. Shell pile in the southern part of the island of Russian age over 5 thousands of years. These excavations were funded by the FEFU Science Foundation, with undergraduates from the Polytechnic Institute for the Study of Coastal Areas from Ecuador.
In September we conducted excavations in Ecuador. In our group there were 9 people: employees of FEFU; Our colleagues from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the SB RAS (Professor AV Tabarev), the Pacific Oceanological Institute FEB RAS - experts in various fields: archeologists, geophysicists, zoologists, paleographers. Together with our Ecuadorian scientific partner Professor H.G. Marcos, Ecuadorian colleagues and undergraduates who worked with us in Russian, within two weeks we conducted excavations on the monument of Real Alto in order to obtain primary results and determine further plans.
- What was this expedition devoted to and how did the collaboration with the Ecuadorian scientists begin?
- In South America, there have never been any full-fledged Russian archaeological expeditions initiated by our scientists. The last time a Russian archaeologist was there and participated in expeditions in the 1984-1985 years. But we have an interest in other civilizations, in peoples who lived in other territories, and we are interested in the South American continent because it is a different vector of human development. Up until the Europeans discovered this continent, the local population had its own path of development.
In Ecuador, we dug up a monument, which is located near the most western point of the South American continent. It is multi-layered, its age is from 7 to 2,5 thousands of years. We determined how promising and interesting the monument is, in which direction to develop our work in order to catch the time that interests us - the period between 6,5-5,5 thousands of years ago.
There we studied the general processes that occurred on the shores of the ocean in human groups at different times. Global climate change had a definite impact on ancient people. They pushed people to change material culture — objects of hunting or gathering — or the creation of technological innovations, the domestication of animals, the domestication of wild plants, and so on.
We are interested in just this period of time, called the Neolithic revolution or neolitization. This is the time when a person begins to engage in farming and animal husbandry. This process did not occur everywhere in the same way, since natural resources were different everywhere. By this time, the beginning of social stratification, the deepening of the specialization of hunting, the beginning of trade and exchange. “Rich and poor” burials appear, religion develops, during this period sexual differentiation is pronounced due to participation in the life of this or that community. This period predetermined further progress in the development of mankind.
And in connection with this, we have such an idea: complex groups of hunters and gatherers exploited natural resources to survive, but at the same time they also begin to outline social differences. In one place at this time a person actively begins to engage in farming, and in another - continues to hunt and collect, but there and there are social inequalities. This is still a time of some kind of equality between these groups. In the future, if a person lives safely, more children are born, which means more pressure on nature, which causes a crisis in the community of hunters and gatherers. And farmers survive, because they no longer depend on natural resources, they adapt nature to themselves, and from the point of view of further development they are more progressive.
There are different groups, there are obvious differences in development, this all needs to be compared and analyzed. With the help of zoologists, botanists, geophysicists, geneticists, anthropologists, historians and other scientists, we do this. Sometimes you do not even know where the way to a deeper and more objective study of these issues. Step by step, we are gathering a mosaic of small details, we come to a comprehension of hypotheses and concepts in assessing the events that occurred in the whole world: the Pacific Ocean - the west and east coast, in Eurasia - the coast of the Pacific and the Atlantic.