search this blog

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Slavic" R1a1a7 from medieval east Germany

Update: 30/06/2013: Anthropological and genetic investigation of a medieval Slavic community from Usedom, east Germany


The abstract below comes from a thesis on a 12th to 13th century burial ground in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Physical anthropology wasn't much use in helping to figure out whether the skeletons from this site were German, Danish or Slavic. However, one of the samples belonged to West Slavic-specific Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1a7, which certainly upped the chances of this community being at least partly of Slavic origin.

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.

Janine Freder, Die mittelalterlichen Skelette von Usedom - Anthropologische Bearbeitung unter besonderer Ber├╝cksichtigung des ethnischen Hintergrundes, Doctoral thesis, 2010, Freie Universitat, Berlin, Department of Biology, Chemistry and Pharmacy