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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

Paleodieta for the Ancient Man

Director of the Educational and Scientific Museum of the Far Eastern Federal University, Candidate of Historical Sciences Alexander Popov told About what the Russian find attracted the American scientists that they excavated on the Russian Island before the APEC summit and than the seaside archaeologists are beckoned with monuments of the ancient times of Ecuador.

- 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.

Who was the initiator of cooperation? There are several components here. We studied, for example, antiquities, but now it is necessary to investigate them more deeply, and for this purpose - to apply new methods of DNA analysis. Our American colleagues had the opportunity to analyze the DNA of ancient human populations from the Pacific coast in East Asia. Accordingly, they began searching for decent material, read our articles, turned to their Russian geneticists, and we are friends and work together with a sufficiently large circle of scientists around the country. American experts have learned that we have suitable archaeological material, it is published and quite famous - there were many reports on this topic both in the USA and South Korea, and in Japan, and on the basis of these materials there are joint projects with the Japanese. And so, initially assessing the material, the American colleagues turned to us with a very profitable for us from a scientific point of view proposal to conduct a comprehensive analfrom the bones that are in our funds.

Initially, they applied for a fairly well-known monument - Boisman-2 from the Khasansky district of Primorye. There was excavated a Neolithic burial ground - an ancient cemetery - 5,5-6 thousand years old. Two skeletons from there are exhibited in the FEFU museum. These materials today are the most ancient of human remains, more or less well preserved, in a fairly vast territory - on the entire Pacific coast of the country. These are unique things, they are rarely found. There are, of course, materials of this age, for example, on the Japanese islands, in South Korea, but a different population lived there. Therefore, from Tumangan to Anadyr are the most ancient bone remains.

Since we possess this material, the American scientists turned to us with a proposal for joint work. As a result, an agreement was signed between FEFU, Harvard Medical School and Howard Hughes Medical Institute on scientific cooperation. We provided our materials so that they could be processed at the Genetics Laboratory of the Harvard Medical School under the guidance of Professor David Reich, one of the best and most recognized genetic laboratories in the world.

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.

For such an analysis, genetics use a variety of methods, including the method for determining paleo-diets, which allows to establish what a person ate in antiquity. Plus, radiocarbon dating is the absolute age definition. Genetic analysis of bone remains in the east of the country has not yet been conducted, so in this sense we will be among the first to do it. Our genetics have worked on modern nations, they have a large database of genetic data, so there will be something to compare. I think that the final result of this work will be very interesting, plus the prospects for interesting publications will open.

- 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.

In addition, since we work at a federal university, we must think globally and have just such partners, working with them involves comprehensive interests and important scientific problems. We are interested in all areas of science that occur at least in the Pacific basin. Therefore, we are holding an exhibition in Korea, and excavations in Ecuador. Today, not only economy and trade is globalizing, but also science. The future is for international scientific groups, because it is no coincidence that Nobel laureates are scientists from different countries.

- 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?

- From 2008 to 2012 years on the Russian Island, we found more than 20 new archaeological sites during the survey of various territories. So, on the site of the current waterfall on the embankment of the FEFU campus, we found an archaeological monument of the early Iron Age with the age of 2,5 thousand years. In some places we find conch piles, ceramic objects, stone and bone products, bone remains of animals that people used to eat.

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 a 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 the human remains from the Boisman-2 burial ground. Sometimes archaeologists search all their lives and do not find.

This season we worked in Dalnerechensky district of Primorye over a two-layered monument: one layer of 5 thousand years old, the second - 2 thousand years. It was a rescue dig during the construction of the communication line. Also in July we conducted two expeditions. One of them is a rescue, we were digging at the site of the construction of a future plant for liquefying natural gas on the Lomonosov peninsula. In general, there are 13 archaeological sites, two of them we dug out, the rest either does not affect the construction, or their excavations are postponed for a later time.

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.

Communication with foreign colleagues led to joint work. We proposed a concept, Ecuadorian scientists responded with joy to this proposal. Our partner, an Ecuadorian professor, is 82 a year, but despite his age, he participates in excavations, he plans to work on bachelor's and master's programs at his university. In Ecuador, Europeans often work, also there are own archaeologists, but there have not been any training programs since the eighties. The opportunity to go to excavations in Ecuador appeared when the Scientific Foundation for the implementation of various projects began to work at the FEFU. We submitted our idea to the competition and received an international grant for three years.

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.

During this period, people have new technological types, for example, ceramics. Traditionally, in Europe, it was associated with the emergence of agriculture and animal husbandry. And in the east, pottery appears very early, a few thousand years earlier than in other territories, and it is used by hunters and gatherers, while they are not developed agriculture. This technological innovation is not evidence of a transition to a productive economy, but of progressive development. We see the same thing in Ecuador. Regardless of the development of civilization in Eurasia, parts of the tribes in the Americas continue to engage in hunting and gathering, and the neighboring tribes begin to engage in farming.

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.

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