The work of an MSU faculty member, presented in Science, fleshes out archaeological hypotheses and implications for human civilizations

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Anna Osterholtz (grandpa photo)

STARKVILLE, Mississippi — Mississippi State Associate Professor Anna Osterholtz is part of a team of scientists featured in a recent trio of articles in Science — the premier journal for researchers published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science — for their research on Linking genetics will be presented to data and language movements as humans migrated through early civilizations.

“Understanding these population movements will help contextualize the archaeological and bioarchaeological analysis,” Osterholtz said. “The scope and temporal depth of this study make it very important for future work to understand how cultural interactions can be reflected in both language and physical body changes.”

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

Working with scientists representing research institutes and universities in the US, Europe and West Asia who have been working on their research since 2017, Osterholtz said she was “thrilled to be able to contribute to such a large-scale study looking at the migration of peoples concerned about the landscape.”

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

The trio of articles in Science looks at some of the earliest civilizations in the “Southern Arc,” a geographic region stretching from the Caucasus and the Levant through Anatolia and the Aegean to the Balkans, bridging Europe and Asia where various ancient human cultures formed and spread.

Osterholtz’s research suggests that these cultures, whether lost in history or surviving to this day, are not just the legacy of the people of the region, but have had a profound impact on human civilization as a whole.

“Currently, our knowledge of the people of many of these cultures, their movements, mating patterns, and languages ​​is patchy,” the journal articles say. “Paleogenetic research can shed new light on the way people lived in past societies and the spread and diversification of their languages.”

The researchers report genome-wide data from 727 different ancient individuals – more than doubling the amount of ancient DNA data from this region and filling in huge gaps in the paleogenetic record – and present a systematic picture of the interconnected histories of peoples in this region The beginnings of agriculture to the late Middle Ages.

The research team is led by Ron Pinhasi at the Institute for 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.

Songul Alpaslan-Roodenberg said the results are examples of “how archaeogenetic findings can provide a missing layer of information that cannot be gleaned 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 financial support.

As an AMEC faculty member since 2016, Osterholtz specializes in bioarchaeology. She has developed research programs in Cyprus and Croatia. Her current research in Cyprus examines the interplay between peoples in the Mediterranean area during the Bronze Age and the formation of Cypriot identity.

As part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, complete information about the AMEC department is available at www.amec.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s premier university and is also available online at www.msstate.edu.

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