Soil biochemical inticators of initial presence of fat in different archaeological contexts

Chernysheva E.V., Kashirskaya N.N., Dushchanova K.S.

VESTNIK ARHEOLOGII ANTROPOLOGII I ETNOGRAFII   2 (61)  (2023)

https://doi.org/10.20874/2071-0437-2023-61-2-9

 

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Abstract

The article proposes a new biochemical approach for the reconstruction of the initial presence of fatcontaining products in different archaeological contexts (ceramic vessels from burials, soil samples in different parts of the skeleton and cultural layers of archaeological sites) based on the study of qualitative and quantitative changes in the parameters of the soil microbial community, namely, specific groups of microorganisms (lipolytics), a number of lipolytic enzymes, as well as the utilization spectrum of readily available low molecular weight substrates. Ground samples of the studied objects were collected in the following regions: ceramic vessels the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania and the Chechen Republic; burials Krasnodar Krai; the cultural layer of the settlement Lipetsk region. The number of lipolytic microorganisms and the level of enzymatic activity in the soil directly depend on the amount of the incoming substrate, in the decomposition of which they participate. After the decomposition of organic residues in the soil, a microbial and enzyme pools are formed, which can persist for a long period. The obtained preliminary data on the study of the decomposition dynamics of fatty substrates give us possibility for the reconstruction of the initial presence of fat in different archaeological contexts using the methods of soil microbiology and biochemistry. But, for a more accurate extrapolation of the results of a model experiment to archaeological objects, more points of observation in time are needed, since the introduction of substrates with different properties and composition can provoke microbial community succession in different ways. Hence, the equilibrium state of the microbial community in each variant of the experiment will be reached at different times. However, the results of the study of soils and cultural layers of archaeological sites of Bronze Age and early medieval time have convincingly shown the possibility of applying our approach. As we assumed, the maximum lipase activity was found in the soil samples under the skull, chest and pelvis, i.e. in areas of human body with the highest content of fat tissues. This showed the possibility for reconstruction the original contents of the vessels from burials using the methods of soil microbiology and biochemistry. A high number of lipolytic microorganisms and lipase activity were detected only in 1520 % of the vessels. We suggest that fat food may not have been as widely used in the funeral rite as ritual food. The study of lipase activity made it possible to clarify the features of the economic usage of the territory of archaeological site, to identify possible places for cooking.

Keywords: archaeological microbiology, soil biological memory, microbial communities, enzyme activity, cultural layers.

 

Acknowledgements. The authors express their deep gratitude to the archaeologists: doctor of historical sciences D.S. Korobov and candidates of historical sciences: E.I. Gak, M.V. Ivashov, A.A. Kleshchenko and V.Yu. Malashev for the opportunity to work on archaeological sites, assistance in field research, sampling and consultation.

Funding. The work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation grant no. 22-28-01725.

 

Creative Commons License

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

Accepted: 05.12.2022

Article is published: 15.06.2023

 

Chernysheva E.V., FRC PSCBR RAS, Institute of Physical, Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science. Institutskaya st., 2, Pushchino, 142290, Russian Federation, E-mail: e.chernyysheva@yandex.ru, http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8526-4798

 

Kashirskaya N.N., FRC PSCBR RAS, Institute of Physical, Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, Institutskaya st., 2, Pushchino, 142290, Russian Federation, E-mail: nkashirskaya81@gmail.com, https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8353-3192

 

Dushchanova K.S., FRC PSCBR RAS, Institute of Physical, Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, Institutskaya st., 2, Pushchino, 142290, Russian Federation,
E-mail: kamilla.dushchanova@gmail.com, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7980-9560