McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Cambridge, United Kingdom

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Cambridge, United Kingdom
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Balanovsky O.,Russian Academy of Medical Sciences | Dibirova K.,Russian Academy of Medical Sciences | Dybo A.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Mudrak O.,Russian State University for the Humanities | And 20 more authors.
Molecular Biology and Evolution | Year: 2011

We analyzed 40 single nucleotide polymorphism and 19 short tandem repeat Y-chromosomal markers in a large sample of 1,525 indigenous individuals from 14 populations in the Caucasus and 254 additional individuals representing potential source populations. We also employed a lexicostatistical approach to reconstruct the history of the languages of the North Caucasian family spoken by the Caucasus populations. We found a different major haplogroup to be prevalent in each of four sets of populations that occupy distinct geographic regions and belong to different linguistic branches. The haplogroup frequencies correlated with geography and, even more strongly, with language. Within haplogroups, a number of haplotype clusters were shown to be specific to individual populations and languages. The data suggested a direct origin of Caucasus male lineages from the Near East, followed by high levels of isolation, differentiation, and genetic drift in situ. Comparison of genetic and linguistic reconstructions covering the last few millennia showed striking correspondences between the topology and dates of the respective gene and language trees and with documented historical events. Overall, in the Caucasus region, unmatched levels of gene-language coevolution occurred within geographically isolated populations, probably due to its mountainous terrain. © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All reserved.

Bower M.A.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research | Whitten M.,Royal Veterinary College | Edwards C.J.,University of Oxford | Jones H.,UK National Institute of Agricultural Botany | And 6 more authors.
Biology Letters | Year: 2011

The paternal origins of Thoroughbred racehorses trace back to a handful of Middle Eastern stallions, imported to the British Isles during the seventeenth century. Yet, few details of the foundation mares were recorded, in many cases not even their names (several different maternal lineages trace back to 'A Royal Mare'). This has fuelled intense speculation over their origins. We examined mitochondrial DNA from 1929 horses to determine the origin of Thoroughbred foundation mares. There is no evidence to support exclusive Arab maternal origins as some historical records have suggested, or a significant importation of Oriental mares (the term used in historic records to refer to Middle East and western Asian breeds including Arab, Akhal-Teke, Barb and Caspian). Instead, we show that Thoroughbred foundation mares had a cosmopolitan European heritage with a far greater contribution from British and Irish Native mares than previously recognized. © 2011 The Royal Society.

Oliveira H.R.,University of Cambridge | Oliveira H.R.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research | Oliveira H.R.,Linköping University | Campana M.G.,Harvard University | And 7 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

The geographic distribution of genetic diversity and the population structure of tetraploid wheat landraces in the Mediterranean basin has received relatively little attention. This is complicated by the lack of consensus concerning the taxonomy of tetraploid wheats and by unresolved questions regarding the domestication and spread of naked wheats. These knowledge gaps hinder crop diversity conservation efforts and plant breeding programmes. We investigated genetic diversity and population structure in tetraploid wheats (wild emmer, emmer, rivet and durum) using nuclear and chloroplast simple sequence repeats, functional variations and insertion site-based polymorphisms. Emmer and wild emmer constitute a genetically distinct population from durum and rivet, the latter seeming to share a common gene pool. Our population structure and genetic diversity data suggest a dynamic history of introduction and extinction of genotypes in the Mediterranean fields. © 2012 Oliveira et al.

Malafouris L.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Journal of Anthropological Sciences | Year: 2010

Important recent developments in brain and cognitive sciences offer new avenues for productive cooperation between archaeology and neuroscience. Archaeologists can now learn more about the biological and neural substrates of the human cognitive abilities and use that knowledge to better define and identify their archaeologically visible traces and possible signatures. In addition, important questions and prevailing assumptions about the emergence of modern human cognition can be critically reviewed in the light of recent neuroscientific findings. Thus there is great prospect in the archaeology of mind for developing a systematic cross-disciplinary endeavor to map the common ground between archaeology and neuroscience, frame the new questions, and bridge the diverge analytical levels and scales of time. The term 'neuroarchaeology' is introduced to articulate this rapidly developing field of cross-disciplinary research, focusing on questions and problems that emerge at the interface between brain and culture over the longterm developmental trajectories of human becoming. Neuroarchaeology aims at constructing an analytical bridge between brain and culture by putting material culture, embodiment, time and long term change at center stage in the study of mind. This paper presents a critical overview of this new research field and introduces the notion of 'metaplasticity' to describe the enactive constitutive intertwining between neural and cultural plasticity. In this context, I summarize the main objectives, cross-disciplinary links, and theoretical grounding of this new approach to the archaeology of mind and outline some of the foundational issues and methodological challenges such a project might face.

Seetah K.,Stanford University | Cardini A.,University of Modena and Reggio Emilia | Cardini A.,University of Western Australia | Barker G.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Holocene | Year: 2016

Archaeological and molecular data suggest that horses were domesticated comparatively recently, the genetic evidence indicating that this was from several maternal haplotypes but only a single paternal one. However, although central to our understanding of how humans and environmental conditions shaped animals during domestication, the phenotypic changes associated with this idiosyncratic domestication process remain unclear. Using geometric morphometrics on a sample of horse teeth including Pleistocene wild horses, modern Icelandic and Thoroughbred domestic horses, Przewalski’s wild horses of recent age and domestic horses of different ages through the Holocene, we show that, despite variations in size likely related to allometry (changes to bone size in proportion to body size), natural and artificial selective pressures and geographic and temporal heterogeneity, the shape of horse teeth has changed surprisingly little over thousands of years across Eurasia: the shapes of the premolars of prehistoric and historic domestic horses largely resemble those of Pleistocene and recent wild horses. However, this changed dramatically after the end of the Iron Age with an explosive increase in the pace and scale of variation in the past two millennia, ultimately resulting in a twofold jump in the magnitude of shape divergence in modern breeds. Our findings indicate that the pace of change during domestication may vary even within the same structure with shape, but not size, suggesting a ‘long-fuse’ model of phenotypic modification, where an initial lengthy period of invariance is followed by an explosive increase in the phenotypic change. These observations support a testable model that is applicable to other traits and species and add a new layer of complexity to the study of interactions between humans and the organisms they domesticated. © 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.

Barker G.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research | Richards M.B.,University of Huddersfield
Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory | Year: 2013

The origins of agriculture have been debated by archaeologists for most of the discipline's history, no more so than in Island Southeast Asia. The orthodox view is that Neolithic farmers spread south by sea from mainland China to Taiwan and thence to Island Southeast Asia, taking with them a new material culture and domestic rice and pigs and speaking the precursor of the Austronesian languages that are spoken in the region today. Opponents of this 'farming/language dispersal' theory have proposed models of acculturation, in which foragers acquired new material culture and food resources by trading with farmers. However, new work in archaeology, palaeoecology, palynology and anthropology, especially in Borneo, and in genetics and linguistics for the region as a whole, is suggesting that foraging/farming transitions in Southeast Asia were far more complex than either of these opposing 'grand narratives' of discontinuity (population colonisation) or continuity (acculturation) allows. Through the course of the Early/Mid-Holocene new material culture, technologies and foods were variously taken up, promoted or resisted in order to provision changes in the social and ideological constitution of societies. Whilst new readings of the data for foraging-farming transitions in the region vary, a consensus is emerging that it is more useful to focus on how materials and modes of life were used to underwrite changes in social networks than to seek to explain the archaeological record in terms of migrating farmers or acculturating foragers. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

Oliveira H.R.,University of Cambridge | Oliveira H.R.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research | Civan P.,University of Manchester | Civan P.,Comenius University | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Archaeological Science | Year: 2012

The recovery of ancient DNA from archaeological wheat samples under different preservation conditions was assessed using a number of genetic markers. It was possible to amplify nuclear DNA from desiccated grains but not from charred. The desiccated grain was from a pre-Hispanic grain silo in Gran Canaria and showed excellent DNA preservation, enabling the amplification of the ribosomal DNA markers IGS and ITS, the upstream region of the HMW-glutenin locus and single-locus nuclear microsatellites. Our results demonstrated the presence of both durum and bread wheat in an assemblage of naked grain. We were also able to identify different genotypes in durum wheat and compare these with extant landraces, providing insights into the agrarian practices of the ancient Canarians and the origin of their crops. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Cardini A.,University of Modena and Reggio Emilia | Cardini A.,University of Western Australia | Seetah K.,Stanford University | Barker G.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Zoomorphology | Year: 2015

One of the most basic but problematic issues in modern morphometrics is how many specimens one needs to achieve accuracy in samples. Indeed, this is one of the most regularly posed questions in introductory courses. There is no simple and certainly no absolute answer to this question. However, there are a number of techniques for exploring the effect of sampling, and our aim is to provide an example of how this might function in a simplified but informative way. Thus, using resampling methods and sensitivity analyses based on randomized subsamples, we assessed sampling error in horse teeth from several modern and fossil populations. Centroid size and shape of an upper premolar (PM2) were captured using Procrustes geometric morphometrics. Means and variances (using three different statistics for shape variance) were estimated, as well as their confidence intervals. Also, the largest population sample was randomly split into progressively smaller subsamples to assess how reducing sample size affects statistical parameters. Results indicate that mean centroid size is highly accurate; even when sample size is small, errors are generally considerably smaller than differences among populations. In contrast, mean shape estimation requires large samples of tens of specimens (ca. >20), although this requirement may be less stringent when variance in a population is very small (e.g. populations that underwent strong genetic bottlenecks). Variance in either centroid size or shape can be highly inaccurate in small samples, to the point that sampling error makes it as variable as differences among spatially and chronologically well-separated populations, including two which are highly distinctive as a consequence of strong artificial selection. Likely, centroid size and shape variance require no <15–20 specimens to achieve a reasonable degree of accuracy. Results from the simplified sensitivity analysis were largely congruent with the pattern suggested by bootstrapped confidence intervals, as well as with the observations of a previous study on African monkeys. The analyses we performed, especially the sensitivity assessment, are simple and do not require much time or computational effort; however, they do necessitate that at least one sample is large (50 or more specimens). If this type of analyses became more common in geometric morphometrics, it could provide an effective tool for the preliminarily exploration of the effect of sampling on results and therefore assist in assessing their robustness. Finally, as the use of sensitivity studies increases, the present case could form part of a set of examples that allow us to better understand and estimate what a desirable sample size might be, depending on the scientific question, type of data and taxonomic level under investigation. © 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

O'Connell T.C.,University of Cambridge | O'Connell T.C.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research | Kneale C.J.,McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research | Tasevska N.,University of Cambridge | And 2 more authors.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology | Year: 2012

The "trophic level enrichment" between diet and body results in an overall increase in nitrogen isotopic values as the food chain is ascended. Quantifying the diet-body Δ15N spacing has proved difficult, particularly for humans. The value is usually assumed to be +3-5 ° in the archaeological literature. We report here the first (to our knowledge) data from humans on isotopically known diets, comparing dietary intake and a body tissue sample, that of red blood cells. Samples were taken from 11 subjects on controlled diets for a 30-day period, where the controlled diets were designed to match each individual's habitual diet, thus reducing problems with short-term changes in diet causing isotopic changes in the body pool. The Δ15Ndiet-RBC was measured as +3.5 °. Using measured offsets from other studies, we estimate the human Δ 15Ndiet-keratin as +5.0-5.3 °, which is in good agreement with values derived from the two other studies using individual diet records. We also estimate a value for Δ15N diet-collagen of ≈6 °, again in combination with measured offsets from other studies. This value is larger than usually assumed in palaeodietary studies, which suggests that the proportion of animal protein in prehistoric human diet may have often been overestimated in isotopic studies of palaeodiet. Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

News Article | March 4, 2016

In a rock art discovered about 14 years ago, researchers found figures of all sorts including tiny handprints that were so little they could have belonged to a baby human. Scientists now believe that these tiny hands were not likely from a human, but rather lizards. Way back in 2002, archaeologists stumbled upon a rock shelter in Egypt where they found thousands of decorations painted on the walls that could date back to 8,000 years old. The rock art contained figures of animals, humans and headless drawings found in what they now call, the Cave of Beasts. This included 13 tiny handprints in the cave that spurred great interest from experts. The cave became popular because of these hand prints. One of the most popular is a touching scene that shows a pair of baby hands inside the outlines of a large pair. Researcher Emmanuelle Honoré of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research was not convinced that the handprints belonged to a human baby since they were much smaller than usual. She decided to compare the measurements of these handprints to those taken from babies born in a French hospital. Since the size of the cave handprints were so small, they also included measurements from premature infants. The results showed that the handprints are less likely from humans. The handprints and the position of its fingers showed that they were flexible. Further investigation led her to narrowing her ideas into lizards or young crocodiles. "Evidence suggest that the hand stencils belong to an animal, most probably a reptile," the researchers concluded in the study. "The identification of non-human pentadactyl hand stencils is unique in the field of rock art and raises new perspectives for understanding the rock art at Wadi Sūra, and the behaviour and symbolic universe of the populations who made it," they added. Lizards still live in the area today and considered protective creatures. The discovery that those handprints are not from humans became a shock to the researchers. The researchers speculate that the art may have included prints of important cultural or religious symbols like lizards, which up to this day still exist in the area and are considered protective animals of nomadic tribes. "We have a modern conception that nature is something that humans are separate from. But in this huge collection of images we can detect that humans are just part of a bigger natural world," Honoré said. "It's very challenging for us as researchers to interpret these paintings since we have a culture that's totally different [from the one that created it]," she added. The findings of the study shed light on new perspectives for understanding the behavior of people who made this art in the past. The study was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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