Diversity and differential disposal of the dead at Sunghir

Jovialis

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Abstract

Understanding the Palaeolithic emergence of human social complexity opens up a key perspective on later periods of cultural evolution. Palaeolithic mortuary practice is particularly revealing, as it echoes the social statuses of both the living and the dead. The famous Sunghir burials fall at the beginning of this sequence. Bioarchaeological analysis of the Sunghir individuals, viewed in the context of earlier Upper Palaeolithic mortuary behaviour more generally, reveals the concurrent practice of a range of funerary treatments, some of which are probably related to individual pathological abnormalities. Through this approach, the Sunghir burials become more than just an example of elaborate Palaeolithic burial, and highlight the diversity of early social and mortuary behaviours.


https://www.cambridge.org/core/jour...d-at-sunghir/B7672FB594E94A505A35E10C869F3808

The paper is behind a paywall, and the abstract is vague. Nevertheless, this article goes into some detail:


https://www.livescience.com/61743-rich-paleolithic-burials.html




 
Abstract

Understanding the Palaeolithic emergence of human social complexity opens up a key perspective on later periods of cultural evolution. Palaeolithic mortuary practice is particularly revealing, as it echoes the social statuses of both the living and the dead. The famous Sunghir burials fall at the beginning of this sequence. Bioarchaeological analysis of the Sunghir individuals, viewed in the context of earlier Upper Palaeolithic mortuary behaviour more generally, reveals the concurrent practice of a range of funerary treatments, some of which are probably related to individual pathological abnormalities. Through this approach, the Sunghir burials become more than just an example of elaborate Palaeolithic burial, and highlight the diversity of early social and mortuary behaviours.


https://www.cambridge.org/core/jour...d-at-sunghir/B7672FB594E94A505A35E10C869F3808

The paper is behind a paywall, and the abstract is vague. Nevertheless, this article goes into some detail:


https://www.livescience.com/61743-rich-paleolithic-burials.html





Amazing indeed that a child who couldn't even eat on his own and couldn't move would be cared for in this way. One wonders how they even moved him around, given that they were hunter-gatherers.

I wonder if it was the status (and love) of the parents that explains it, or if they attributed some sort of special magic or status to these two boys for some reason.

"[FONT=&quot]"In this case, adolescents — people with disabilities or pathologies that would have limited their full functioning — are getting some amazing treatment," Straus told Live Science."

[/FONT]
The other thing I find interesting is how many of the people had really severe deformities. Were they so isolated that they were really inbred? Also, was it Loschbour who wasn't really very fit?

"[FONT=&quot]These two boys aren't the only people with disabilities known to have received burials during this time period. "Indeed, in the Mid Upper Paleolithic, individuals with marked developmental or degenerative abnormalities are relatively common in the burial record, accounting for a third of the sufficiently well-preserved individuals," the researchers wrote in the study."[/FONT]
 
It is interesting to speculate on their social status; maybe some groups were hierarchical. Perhaps they were quasi-sedentary; and maybe being elite meant that others were out doing the hunting and foraging for them. Allowing them to tend to their sick. I recall from the SHG pit house thread, you had mentioned that evidence suggests as the Mesolithic went on, some Hunter-gatherers did remain in one place for a while. As long as the food was abundant enough in one area.
 

The other thing I find interesting is how many of the people had really severe deformities. Were they so isolated that they were really inbred? Also, was it Loschbour who wasn't really very fit?

The Mesolithic woman from Greece also had some bad health issues; from anemia, scurvy, hip, and joint problems. She was only a teenager as well.

Dawn was possibly anemic and may have suffered from scurvy, the researchers said. Evidence also pointed to hip and joint problems, which may have made it difficult for her to move and may have contributed to her death.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-archaeology-dawn/scientists-reconstruct-face-of-9000-year-old-greek-teenager-idUSKBN1FC1XK
 
The Mesolithic woman from Greece also had some bad health issues; from anemia, scurvy, hip, and joint problems. She was only a teenager as well.

I think we might classify those as lifestyle diseases, perhaps? You know, not enough meat, not enough Vitamin C from plants, wear and tear on their bones from physical exertion, all were present, I think, in the Neolithic, and even into the pre-modern era. The Langobards they recently tested were all in bad shape like this, too.

The kinds of diseases I'm talking about (the shortened and bowed thigh bones, the inability to chew etc.) seem to be genetic, maybe from inbreeding, but I don't know. Some of those things should come up in the dna analysis I would think.

I guess I was reminded of the Tay Sachs disease. Two Jewish families lived next door to me, and both of them had children afflicted with this. Now there is genetic screening but then there was no way of knowing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tay–Sachs_disease
 
I think we might classify those as lifestyle diseases, perhaps? You know, not enough meat, not enough Vitamin C from plants, wear and tear on their bones from physical exertion, all were present, I think, in the Neolithic, and even into the pre-modern era. The Langobards they recently tested were all in bad shape like this, too.

The kinds of diseases I'm talking about (the shortened and bowed thigh bones, the inability to chew etc.) seem to be genetic, maybe from inbreeding, but I don't know. Some of those things should come up in the dna analysis I would think.

I guess I was reminded of the Tay Sachs disease. Two Jewish families lived next door to me, and both of them had children afflicted with this. Now there is genetic screening but then there was no way of knowing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tay–Sachs_disease

I think inbreeding could be a likely cause for the bone diseases in the boys. Given that they were sparsely populated; those small units of HGs could have largely been family clans. Then again, like you said in regards to the dna analysis; it would have been a salient aspect. But perhaps they were.
 
I think inbreeding could be a likely cause for the bone diseases in the boys. Given that they were sparsely populated; those small units of HGs could have largely been family clans. Then again, like you said in regards to the dna analysis; it would have been a salient aspect. But perhaps they were.
the paper about the Sungir DNA showed that despite their isolation there was no direct kinship between the individuals burried
they concluded that there must have been rules against inbreeding
there are other instances of HG tribes where the women are proven to be of a different origin (different strontium isotope, dietary patterns at youth, ..)
 
there was a clear difference in social status
the older man burried was wearing so many beads, he can't have made them himself in a whole lifetime
the beads were drilled mechanically which was a new technique - apart from the 50 ka bracelet found in the Denisova cave
IMO the meachanical drilling of eyes in the needles was the advantage Gravettians had over Aurignacians, who had very few needles
 
the paper about the Sungir DNA showed that despite their isolation there was no direct kinship between the individuals burried
they concluded that there must have been rules against inbreeding
there are other instances of HG tribes where the women are proven to be of a different origin (different strontium isotope, dietary patterns at youth, ..)

I wonder then why they say this is the case:

" "Indeed, in the Mid Upper Paleolithic, individuals with marked developmental or degenerative abnormalities are relatively common in the burial record, accounting for a third of the sufficiently well-preserved individuals," the researchers wrote in the study."

Perhaps other groups were recently inbred but this group wasn't?

Those two boys sure present as suffering from some sort of genetic disease, but perhaps something happened to them.
 

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