ASU archaeologists intend to solve the riddle of the Andronovo culture of the Bronze Age

23 January 2019 Department of Information and Media Communications
The Russian Foundation for Basic Research supported Altai State University's project, dedicated to the socio-cultural adaptation of the ancient population of Altai – the Andronovo culture of the Bronze Age period.

The project team entitled “Bioarchaeological Approaches to the Problems of Adaptation of the Andronovo Population of Altai”, which is led by the leading researcher of the laboratory of interdisciplinary archeology research in Western Siberia and Altai State University, Candidate of History Dmitry V. Papin, included representatives of various scientific fields and disciplines.

“We take the data obtained by researchers in the sciences related to us, and we apply them to our activity in order to reconstruct the processes, phenomena and patterns of life of people of that time on the basis of these facts. Therefore, in addition to archaeologists, our project team includes the well-known anthropologist of Altai State University Svetlana S. Tur, who deals with the reconstruction of physical activities of an ancient person, their influence on the human skeleton. On the basis of this information, we can reconstruct data on the activities of a person from the Andronovo period,” Dmitry V. Papin said.

In addition, according to the scientist, the bones of people show information about what diseases they had, in what climatic conditions they lived, and what food they ate. Thanks to the techniques of modern anthropology (radiography of the bones of the skeleton), it is possible to reconstruct data on life of a particular person, and then form an overall picture of the vital activity of the ancient population as a whole.

The second direction of the project is research in the field of isotope radiochemistry. Scientists and archaeologists of Altai State University have been cooperating with the Center for Climate, Environment and Chronology (The 14Chrono Centre) at Queen's University Belfast (the United Kingdom) and directly with the center's researcher, Dr. Svetlana V. Svyatko, who also joined the project team, for more than five years.

“The laboratory at Queen's University Belfast is a recognized world leader in the study of the environment in antiquity. The laboratory is equipped with an accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS), so archeologists from all over the world use its services. In particular, we plan to reconstruct the diet strategy of the Andronovo population using isotope radiochemistry. That is, how the structure of nutrition of an ancient man was built, what food prevailed in their diet: dairy, meat or grain. Thus, we will be able to reconstruct the model of adaptation of the life activity of an ancient person,” the project manager explained.

The Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Novosibirsk) and, in particular, one of the leading Russian experts in the field of paleogenetics, Candidate of Biology Alexander S. Pilipenko will also take part in the work on the project.

“With the help of genetics, we hope to verify our results. That is, determine whether the Andronovo culture is alien to the territory of Altai, or it is its homeland. Now genetics has a significant bank of biological data, which allows you to determine where the ancestral home of one or another people was located. Thus, comparing the data of the three areas of the project, we will determine how they relate to traditional archaeological data, and eventually form a model of the ancient society of Andronovo culture,” Dmitry V. Papin concluded.

Implementing the project, the international scientific team intends to solve the fundamental problem of determining the nature of the sociocultural adaptation of the Andronovo population of Altai within three years.

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