MSU faculty member’s work featured in ‘Science’ fleshes out archaeological hypotheses and impacts on human civilizations

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Contact person: Sarah Nicolas

Anna Osterholtz (OPA Photo)

STARKVILLE, Mississippi—Mississippi State Associated Professor Anna Osterholtz is part of a team of scholars featured in a current trio of articles in Science—the premier journal for scholars published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science—for their genetic research data and language movement as people migrated through early civilizations.

“Understanding these population movements will help contextualize archaeological and bioarchaeological analysis,” Osterholtz said. “The breadth and temporal depth of this study makes it very important for future work aimed at understanding how cultural interactions may be reflected in both language changes and the physical body.”

To read the full trio of articles, visit https://www.science.org/journal/science.

Together with scholars representing research institutes and universities in the United States, Europe and West Asia, and working on their research since 2017, Osterholtz said she was “excited to be able to contribute to a study of such a scope that examines the migration of peoples. through the landscape. »

“We provided samples from two different sites in Croatia,” Osterholtz said. “First, from the Bronze Age site of Gusilla Gomilla II (1880-1650 BCE), in collaboration with Dr. Helena Thomas of the University of Zagreb. And also, the Roman era cemeteries of the city ​​of Trogir (1st-6th centuries AD), in collaboration with Lujana Paraman from the City Museum of Trogir and Dr. Mario Novak from the Institute of Anthropological Research in Zagreb.

The trio of articles from Science delves into some of the earliest civilizations of the “Southern Arc,” a geographic region that stretches from the Caucasus and the Levant, through Anatolia and the Aegean Sea to the Balkans, forming a bridge between Europe and Asia, where various ancient human cultures formed and spread.

Osterholtz’s research suggests that these cultures, whether lost to history or surviving to the present day, are not only the legacy of the peoples of the region, but also had an impact profound on human civilization as a whole.

“At present, our knowledge of the peoples of many of these cultures, their movements, mating patterns and languages, is uneven,” according to the journal articles. “Paleogenetic research can shed new light on the ways of life of peoples of past societies and on the spread and diversification of their languages.”

Researchers report genome-wide data from 727 distinct ancient individuals – more than double the amount of ancient DNA data from this region and filling major gaps in the paleogenetic record – and present a systematic picture of peoples’ interrelated histories of this region since the origins of agriculture at the end of the Middle Ages.

The research team is led by Ron Pinhasi of the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology and Human Evolution and Archaeological Sciences at the University of Vienna; Songül Alpaslan-Roodenberg at the University of Vienna and Harvard University; and Iosif Lazaridis and David Reich at Harvard University.

Songül Alpaslan-Roodenberg said the findings are examples of “how archaeogenetic findings can provide a missing layer of information that cannot be obtained from other sources.”

Osterholtz thanks the Cobb Institute of Archeology at MSU, the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, and the College of Arts and Sciences for their financial support.

An AMEC faculty member since 2016, Osterholtz specializes in bioarchaeology. She has developed research programs in Cyprus and Croatia. His current research in Cyprus examines the interaction between the populations of the Mediterranean in the Bronze Age and the creation of Cypriot identity.

Part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, full details of the AMEC department can be found at www.amec.msstate.edu.

MSU is the main university in Mississippi, also available online at www.msstate.edu.

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