An integrative skeletal and paleogenomic analysis of stature variation suggests relatively reduced health for early European farmers

The collaborative paper on stature variation during the prehistory in Europe led by Stephanie Marciniak was finally published in PNAS! We announced the preprint already last year so the details can be found below. Very happy to contribute to this work with many others!

6th April 2022

Long time-series ecological niche modelling using archaeological settlement data: Tracing the origins of present-day landscape

Peter Demján from the Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague led our work on this amazing paper. I’m very happy to contribute to this paper in Applied Geography. It is the first time we collated and analysed datasets of archaeological sites from the whole Czech Republic. Using a large dataset of evidence of prehistoric settlement activities spanning 6600 years from the beginning of agricultural prehistory, we analysed to what degree settlement was related to environmental parameters. We quantified the strength of this relation in terms of the predictive power of ecological niche models generated with the MaxEnt method. We observed a significant variability of settlement behaviour over time, but also landscape occupation, which has retained similar general characteristics to now. This shows that settlement strategies were remarkably stable and the presence of previous settlement was beneficial for subsequent land-use. Comparison of prehistoric settlement with contemporary landscape typology also points to a long-term legacy pre-dating historical periods, which makes the landscape our largest and most important heritage monument.

25th February 2022

Towards New Demography Proxies and Regional Chronologies: Radiocarbon Dates from Archaeological Contexts Located in the Czech Republic Covering the Period Between 10,000 BC and AD 1250

All the COVID19-related lockdowns and closures of archives and libraries had also a bright side. My colleague and phd candidate Peter Tkáč collected a database of archaeological radiocarbon dates from the Czech Republic covering the whole Holocene. We need that dataset for creating demographic models within our project, but we published it instantly as it might be used in many other ways. The open access dataset can be downloaded from ZENODO and a data paper from the Journal of Open Archaeology Data.

11th December 2021

Dynamic changes in genomic and social structures in third millennium BCE central Europe

In this recent paper in Science Advances I collaborated with Luka Papac (leading author), Wolfgang Haak, Michal Ernée and many others on the combination of archaeological and genetic data from Bohemia. The paper presents exciting results based on 271 human genomes from several Copper and Bronze Age sites in Bohemia. The results include some new migration events and high genetic diversity within the relatively homogenous archaeological cultures. My most favourite result touches the ‚steppe migration‘ in the 3rd millennium BC. Previous authors thought that this was connected mainly to young men and led to the emergence of the Corded Ware in Europe, but here we show that the whole story was much more manifold. The earliest individuals associated with the Corded Ware comprised of both ‚steppe‘ and ‚non-steppe‘ ancestry, those with the ‚steppe‘ ancestry included women too. The mobility events were not such sausage parties as some archaelogists sometimes think.

6th September 2021

On interdisciplinarity in the humanities: A comment on Fanta et al. (2020) on the bias in dating obtained from historical sources

In this paper in Journal of Archaeological Science we (together with my colleague Péter Szabó) commented on a recent paper analysing the Medieval colonization processes in Bohemia. The authors compared archaeological and historical data and concluded that the first mentions of settlements in historical documents are not reliable sources for settlement dating and should be always verified and superseded by archaeological data, which are, in contrast, mostly unproblematic. We argue that this conclusion is controversial from several aspects. Firstly, it neglects the disciplinary constraints of archaeological evidence for medieval settlement development, as regards quality and chronology. Secondly, there are several legitimate perspectives from which to analyse the data. Our reanalysis of the original dataset showed that in partial contrast to the conclusions of Fanta et al. (2020) when viewed from the point of view of historical evidence, the time lag between the historical and archaeological dating increased with time and that the historical dating of most of the settlements between the 10th and 13th centuries was supported by archaeological evidence. Lastly, we demonstrated how research combining different disciplines (archaeology, history, palaeoecology, geography) and types evidence can reveal the manifold processes of human settlement dynamics. In our view each type of evidence has advantages as well as drawbacks, therefore strictly prioritising one at the expense of others hardly furthers the understanding of complex social phenomena.

21st July 2021

Mapping past human land use using archaeological data: A new classification for global land use synthesis and data harmonization

This paper in PLOS One is a collaborative effort of a large international research group LandCover6K led by Kathleen Morrison from the University of Pennsylvania. Past land use mapping was discussed on several LandCover6K workshops during the last couple of years and we finally published the collective paper on global land use synthesis and data harmonization. The paper introduces a common land use terminology which can be used and understood globally. Archaeological data on land use enables us a better way of quantification of human impact on the Earth during the past and creation of better climate change scenarios for the future.

15th April 2021

An integrative skeletal and paleogenomic analysis of prehistoric stature variation suggests relatively reduced health for early European farmers (preprint)

Here I collaborated with Stephanie Marciniak (Penn State, USA; leading author) on an integration of osteological and palaeogenomic data for 160 individuals. This dataset then served to evaluate health in prehistory, finding that reduced stature and other stress markers appeared more frequently during the shift to agriculture. Really looking forward when the paper will be published!

4th April 2021

Migrations or local interactions? Spheres of interaction in third-millennium BC Central Europe

In this paper in Antiquity I used some of the data collected for my doctoral dissertation and showed how archaeology can analyse the available data. Archaeology and archaeogenetics are in a lively discussion due to the current interest in human mobility. On the one hand, archaeogeneticists often interpret their results in terms of large-scale migrations, which is criticized for a lack of social theory or an interest in human behaviour. On the other hand, archaeologists are blamed for providing the samples and no intellectual input. Through the example of local interactions within the Corded Ware culture, this paper illustrates how detailed and theoretically informed archaeological insights are crucial for understanding human mobility and how archaeology can be a better partner for bioarchaeological research in general.