February 1, 2023

Prehistoric Cemetery Radiocarbon Dating Reveals Human Response to Climate Change in the Early Holocene

The team believes the production of the cemetery reveals a social response to the tensions triggered by local resource depression. At a time of climate change, Lake Onega, as the 2nd biggest lake in Europe, had its own environmentally durable microclimate. Because of the fall in temperature, many of the areas shallower lakes could have been prone to the well-known phenomenon of winter fish kills, triggered by depleted oxygen levels under the ice.
Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov is one of the largest Early Holocene cemeteries in northern Eurasia, with up to 400 possible tombs, 177 of which were excavated in the 1930s by a team of Russian archaeologists. Based on their work, the cemetery website has a crucial position in European Mesolithic research studies, in part since of the variation in the accompanying severe offerings.

Site of the early Holocene cemetery of Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov, at Lake Onega, some 500 miles north of Moscow. Credit: Pavel Tarasov
Radiocarbon dating from an ancient cemetery in Northern Russia reveals human tension triggered by an international cooling occasion 8,200 years ago Early hunter collectors developed more complicated social systems and, unusually, a large cemetery when dealt with by environment.
New insight into how our early ancestors dealt with major shifts in environment is exposed in research study, released on January 27, 2022, in Nature Ecology & & Evolution, by an international team, led by Professor Rick Schulting from Oxford Universitys School of Archaeology.
It reveals new radiocarbon dates that show the large Early Holocene cemetery of Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov, at Lake Onega, some 500 miles north of Moscow, previously believed to have remained in use for numerous centuries, was, in fact, utilized for only one to 2 centuries. This seems to be in response to a period of environment stress.

The group believes the production of the cemetery exposes a social reaction to the tensions caused by local resource anxiety. At a time of climate change, Lake Onega, as the second largest lake in Europe, had its own environmentally durable microclimate. This would have brought in video game, including elk, to its shores while the lake itself would have supplied a productive fishery. Since of the fall in temperature, a lot of the areas shallower lakes could have been prone to the popular phenomenon of winter fish eliminates, brought on by diminished oxygen levels under the ice.
The production of the cemetery at the website would have helped define group subscription for what would have been previously dispersed bands of hunter-gatherers– mitigating possible dispute over access to the lakes resources.
However when the environment improved, the team found, the cemetery mostly went out of usage, as individuals probably returned to a more mobile lifestyle and the lake ended up being less main.
The behavioral changes– to what might be viewed as a more complicated social system, with abundant grave offerings– were situation-dependent. However they suggest the existence of essential choice makers and, say the team, the findings likewise indicate that early searching and gathering communities were resistant and highly versatile.
The outcomes have implications for understanding the context for the introduction and dissolution of socioeconomic inequality and territoriality under conditions of socio-ecological stress.
Radiocarbon dating of the human remains and associated animal remains at the site reveals that the primary use of the cemetery covered between 100-300 years, centring on ca. 8250 to 8,000 BP. This corresponds extremely carefully with the 8.2 ka remarkable cooling event, so this site might supply evidence for how these human beings reacted to a climate-driven ecological modification.
The Holocene (the existing geological date which began approximately 11,700 years before present) has been fairly stable in comparison to current events. The best understood of these is the 8,200 years ago cooling occasion, the largest climatic decline in the Holocene, enduring lasted one to two centuries.
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Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov is among the biggest Early Holocene cemeteries in northern Eurasia, with up to 400 possible tombs, 177 of which were excavated in the 1930s by a team of Russian archaeologists. Based on their work, the cemetery website has an important position in European Mesolithic research studies, in part because of the variation in the accompanying serious offerings. Some graves lack these entirely, to those with sophisticated and plentiful offerings.
Reference: “Radiocarbon dating from Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov cemetery exposes complicated human reactions to socio-ecological stress during the 8.2 ka cooling event” by Rick J. Schulting, Kristiina Mannermaa, Pavel E. Tarasov, Thomas Higham, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Valeri Khartanovich, Vyacheslav Moiseyev, Dmitriy Gerasimov, John OShea and Andrzej Weber, 27 January 2022, Nature Ecology & & Evolution.DOI: 10.1038/ s41559-021-01628-4.
This research was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (UK) (NF/2016/1/ 5) and by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant nos. 412-2011-1001 and 895-2018-1004). The Kone Foundation also provided assistance.
Thanks to the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography/Kunstkamera, St. Petersburg, Russia, for permitting access to the collections in their care.

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