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Research Arctic Centre

2 new PhD defences

28 January 2021

The Arctic Centre is proud that 2 of her PhDs are defending there thesis.

On January 28, Xénia Weber defends her thesis: Hunting ancient walrus genomes, Uncovering the hidden past of Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus).

Humans and walruses have co-existed in the Atlantic Arctic for at least six thousand years. Humans have hunted walruses as sources of food, fuel and material (e.g. bone, ivory or hide). The intensity and method of walrus hunting has changed over time, and also varied across the North Atlantic. The size, connectivity and diversity of walrus populations is likely to have also changed over time and geographic area, both in response to human activities but also environmental factors such as climate. This thesis explores the timing, nature and potential triggers for changes in Atlantic walruses over the last few thousand years by integrating archaeological knowledge, cutting-edge ancient DNA methods and our understanding of walrus biology.The results presented in this thesis provide insight into how the populations of walruses that we know today across the North Atlantic arose following climatic cycles over the last 30 000 years. Additionally, ancient DNA analyses, when combined with radiocarbon dating and historical analyses, reveal the impact of intensive hunting by the Norse during the Viking Age driven by the demand for valuable goods such as walrus ivory. This impact was the the local extinction of a unique lineage of walruses on Iceland. This thesis also includes chapters that make a contribution to the analytical methods and approach used in archaeological and ancient DNA studies, particularly with regard to determining whether bones are from male or female seals/walruses, and how well preserved (and hence suitable for ancient DNA analyses) certain bones or teeth might be.There are however, many more questions remaining, which can best be resolved if we bring together research and methodologies from many different fields.

On Februari 1, Manon Bondetti defends her thesis: Is there an 'Aquatic' Neolithic? New insights from organic residue analysis of early Holocene pottery from European Russia and Siberia.

This thesis investigates the function of early Holocene hunter-gatherer ceramic vessels in northern Eurasia. It presents the first systematic application of organic residue analysis (ORA) to Early Neolithic pottery from European Russia and Siberia. During the early Holocene (ca. 9,700 to 5,000 cal BC) pottery was widely produced by hunter-gatherers across Eurasia. One existing theory suggests that the advent of pottery was linked to an intensification of aquatic resource exploitation; the so-called “Aquatic” Neolithic (Gibbs et al. 2017). This theory is supported by recent ORA of early pottery from eastern Asia and northern Europe, where lipid markers derived from aquatic resources were frequently encountered, absorbed in the pots themselves. One area neglected by ORA is the vast territory of what is now Russia where the arrival of pottery marks the start of the Neolithic period, predating agriculture by several thousand years. Despite its importance in defining the Neolithic in this region, little is known about how early pottery was used and what drove its adoption during the early Holocene. Here, ORA was applied to 417 samples, representing 314 ceramic vessels, recovered from three important early Neolithic sites: the East Siberian site of Gorelyi Les, and Rakushechny Yar and Zamostje 2 in the southern and northern part of European Russia respectively. Overall, the results generated by this thesis indicate much greater diversity in the use of early pottery than predicted from the “Aquatic” Neolithic theory. While aquatic products were indeed prevalent at many sites, lipids derived from terrestrial plants and animals were also common and, overall, the initial use of pottery seems to have varied according to the regional context. These results challenge the idea that the widespread adoption of pottery by Holocene Eurasian foragers was driven primarily by the need to process aquatic resources.

Both PhDs were part of the ArchSci2020 project

Dissertation Xénia

Dissertation Manon

Last modified:05 March 2021 6.52 p.m.

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