February 22, 2011

Medieval DNA from Usedom, Germany

With respect to the Slavic/Germanic origin of the studied samples, I would like to point to a 2005 study on the differentiation between Germans and Poles. R-M458 should probably be assigned to the Slavic side, while E1b1b on the German. The absence of R1b (in the albeit limited sample) is interesting, and should be interpreted as further evidence for the Slavic side of the argument, as R1b strongly differentiates Germans from Slavs in today's populations and less than a millennium ago is probably too short a timespan to expect dramatic changes in haplogroup frequencies.

Related:

Main title Die mittelalterlichen Skelette von Usedom
Subtitle Anthropologische Bearbeitung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des ethnischen Hintergrundes
Title variations The mediaeval skeletons of Usedom
Subtitle for translated title Anthropological investigation in due consideration of the ethnical background
Author(s) Freder, Janine
Place of birth: Berlin
1. Referee Prof. Dr. Carsten Niemitz
Further Referee(s) Prof. Dr. Joachim Burger
Keywords Anthropology; osteometry; palaeodemography; Slavs; Danes; DNA; mitochondrial; Y chromosome
Classification (DDC) 570 Life sciences
Summary This study investigates 200 skeletons from an early Christian graveyard of the 12th to early 13th century in Usedom (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany). The city of Usedom was a notable maritime place of trade in a time of major political and social transformations. The Christianisation of the Slavic elite in 1128, the following raids of the Danes and the influx of German settlers starting in the 13th century were formative events.
The reconstruction of the living conditions of the Usedom population was achieved by means of well established anthropological and palaeodemographical methods. Age and sex distribution comply with other ordinary populations of that time frame: high proportion of children (32 %), comparatively few adolescents but many adults (59 %) as well as a slight surplus in men. Remarkably, a deficit in women in the mature age class is attended by an increased mortality of girls of the age class infans I. However, this may be due to a methodical error.
In order to clarify a possible Slavic, Danish or German background of the inhabitants of Usedom, eight skull measures, four skull indices and five measures of the long bones of the extremities were investigated typologically as well as statistically on the basis of their arithmetic means and compared to the measures of two series of Slavic or multiethnic/place of trade background (Sanzkow and Haithabu, respectively). The comparison of arithmetic means did yield statistically significant differences between the three populations. The men and women of Usedom seem to be more closely related to the Sanzkow population. However, they appear to take a position between the two other populations. Unfortunately, a comparison with Slavic and Germanic populations of the Neolithic till Early Middle Ages did not provide distinct results. The archaeologically based assumption of a mainly Slavic population cannot be rejected with anthropological means.
The analysis of mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal DNA, however, generated auspicious results despite adverse storage conditions. Results could be obtained from all four samples. Two individuals were of mtDNA haplogroup H and two of haplogroup K. Y-chromosome analysis yielded haplogroups E1b1b and R1a1a7, respectively, in two males. Future molecular research will see improved methods for the even more detailed reconstruction of human migration.

6 comments:

Dragon Horse said...

The city is now named Uznam and is in Poland, not Germany, although it is on the border, it was made "Polish" after WWII like much of Prussia.

Dragon Horse said...

Sorry Dienekes, you are right, well we are both right, part of the island is Polish, part is German. Most of it is German I think.

eurologist said...

I agree, R1a1a7 (M458) is characteristic of the Slavic expansion, and not part of the older R1a found in central Europe (that predates concepts of Slavic or Germanic). E1b1b could also be from Denmark.

eurologist said...

I should add that E1b1b is more common in Northern Europe at ancient or historic commercial sites of trade - harbors and major rivers - and usually has a fairly steep gradient away from that. Funny enough, low-key, picturesque Usedom at one point was a major regional (trade) center. It was predominantly Slavic only for about 400 years (800-900 to mid 13th century).

From that perspective, the E1b1b is not unusual, but without further investigation of subclades, it is impossible to know if it is of ancient or more recent medieval trade origin, or whether from sailors or from merchants.

Creative said...

The result is kind of funny considering the fact that the region Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has one of the strongest Neo-Nazi’s communities in Germany. lol

pconroy said...

Eurologist,

I agree, finding E1b1b is interesting, but not wholly unexpected.

On 23AndMe, I have a predicted Relative, whose name is Jensen, and can trace all her ancestry to the island of Funen, Denmark for about 500 years. She has mtDNA M1a, which is North African mostly.