Bioarchaeology of children and adolescents of the Early Bronze Age on the basis of materials from the burial grounds

of the Volgograd Region  

Pererva E.V, Dyachenko A.N. (Volgograd, Russian Federation)


              page 106120


The paper studies the burials and anthropological materials of children (Early Bronze Age; Yamna culture), originating from the burial complexes of the Lower Volga using the method of paleopathological examination of skeletal remains and through the interpretation of the archaeological material. The skeletal remains of seven individuals whose age did not exceed 1516 years were examined. The bone material exhibited varying degrees of preservation. In 6 skeletal remains, only fragments of the cranium were examined, whereas in 5 individuals it was possible to examine the postcranial remains along with the skull bones. In this study, we applied a procedure for studying pathological abnormalities in the human skeleton developed by A.P. Buzhilova [1998]. Different me-thodological recommendations were used when recording bone porosis [Ortner, Ericksen, 1997; Ortner, Putschar, 1981; Lukacs, et al., 2001; Brown, Ortner, 2011; Maclellan, 2011]. The analysis of anthropological series helped to assess the incidence of porotic hyperostosis of eye sockets (cribra orbitalia) and cranial roof bones; to detect the signs of inflammatory processes in the bones of the postcranial skeleton in the form of periostitis, inflammation on the inner surface of the bones of the cranial vault, as well as the pathological conditions of the dental system [Hegen, 1971; Stuart-Macadam, 1992; Waldron et al., 2009; Walker et al., 2009; Suby, 2014; Zuckerman et al., 2014]. The analysis of archaeological materials from children's burials of the Early Bronze Age revealed that almost all burials of children and adolescents are inlet, i.e. they do not have their individual barrows. The collection of items is extremely small and is primarily represented by ceramics of very poor quality. A low proportion of children's burials attributed to the Yamna culture is observed in the Lower Volga burial grounds. As a rule, children are buried together with adults, so separate burials are very rare. Two of the seven studied individuals were 4 to 7 years old, while the remaining five individuals were buried at the age of 816. The reason for the small number of children's burials of the Yamna culture is associated with the low social status of the immature part of the population, which, in turn, may suggest some special, poorly fixed archaeologically, burial ritual for the bulk of children, given that subsequently the number of children's individual burials increased quite significantly on the same territory. Nevertheless, their design and accompanying items are not much different from those of adult burials. Young individuals of the Early Bronze Age are characterised by markers of episodic stress that occurred during various periods of childhood, predominantly from 2 to 4 years old. The stress can be associated with the transition from the dairy diet to the solid food diet. The widespread occurrence of tartar in immature individuals can indicate the specificity of their diet, which was based on soft and, possibly, fatty food. In addition, it may indicate a lack of oral hygiene, which is quite natural for the historical period. Vitamin deficiency recorded in the stu-died group results either from exposure to negative factors during the late transition from breastfeeding to solid food or from chronic hunger. Young people of the Early Bronze Age had non-specific inflammations, which, most likely, were not systematic, but occurred sporadically. We can presume that children and adolescents of the studied age lived peacefully and participated in the economic activities of the social groups. Being exposed to episodic stresses, immature individuals of the pit culture successfully adapted to environmental factors.

Key words: paleopathology, Yamna culture, children, Lower Volga river region, disease.


Funding. This work was supported by the RFBR grant No. 19-09-00471, Paleoanthropology of the Ancient and Medieval Populations of the Lower Volga Region (Paleopathological Aspect).


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted: 09.09.2019

Accepted: 30.09.2019

Article is published: 30.12.2019


Pererva E.V.

National Economy and Public Administration, Gagarina st., 8, Volgograd, 400015, Russian Federation



Dyachenko A.N.

Volgograd State University, prosp. Universitetsky, 100, 8, Volgograd, 400062, Russian Federation