Publications by authors named "Deborah C Merrett"

6 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Stable isotope analysis of human bone from Ganj Dareh, Iran, ca. 10,100 calBP.

PLoS One 2021 2;16(3):e0247569. Epub 2021 Mar 2.

Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada.

We report here on stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotope values from bone collagen of human (n = 20) and faunal (n = 11) remains from the Early Neolithic site of Ganj Dareh, Iran, dating to ca. 10,100 cal. BP. Our focus explores how isotope values of human bone vary by age and sex, and evaluates dietary practices at this site. It also provides a baseline for future studies of subsistence in the early Holocene Central Zagros Mountains, from the site with the first evidence for human ovicaprid management in the Near East. Human remains include individuals of all age groups for dietary reconstruction, as well two Ottoman intrusive burials for temporal and cultural comparison. All analyzed individuals exhibited δ13C and δ15N values consistent with a diet based heavily on C3 terrestrial sources. There is no statistically significant difference between the isotopic compositions of the two sexes, though males appear to show larger variations compared to females. Interesting patterns in the isotopic compositions of the subadults suggested weaning children may be fed with supplements with distinctive δ13C values. Significant difference in sulfur isotope values between humans and fauna could be the earliest evidence of transhumance and could identify one older adult male as a possible transhumant shepherd. Both Ottoman individuals had distinctively different δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S values compared to the Neolithic individuals. This is the first large scale analysis of human stable isotopes from the eastern end of the early Holocene Fertile Crescent. It provides a baseline for future intersite exploration of stable isotopes and insight into the lifeways, health, and processes of neolithisation associated with the origins of goat domestication at Ganj Dareh and the surrounding Central Zagros.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247569PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7924805PMC
March 2021

The formation of human populations in South and Central Asia.

Science 2019 09;365(6457)

Earth Institute, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland.

By sequencing 523 ancient humans, we show that the primary source of ancestry in modern South Asians is a prehistoric genetic gradient between people related to early hunter-gatherers of Iran and Southeast Asia. After the Indus Valley Civilization's decline, its people mixed with individuals in the southeast to form one of the two main ancestral populations of South Asia, whose direct descendants live in southern India. Simultaneously, they mixed with descendants of Steppe pastoralists who, starting around 4000 years ago, spread via Central Asia to form the other main ancestral population. The Steppe ancestry in South Asia has the same profile as that in Bronze Age Eastern Europe, tracking a movement of people that affected both regions and that likely spread the distinctive features shared between Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aat7487DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6822619PMC
September 2019

Possible case of pressure resorption associated with osteoarthritis in human skeletal remains from ancient China.

Int J Paleopathol 2019 03 20;24:1-6. Epub 2018 Sep 20.

Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada; SFU-JLU Joint Centre for Bioarchaeological Research, Department of Archeaology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada. Electronic address:

Osteoarthritis, one of the most common pathological conditions observed in human skeletal remains, is traditionally thought to only affect the structures within the joint capsule. We examined the osteoarthritic distal femora of an individual from Ancient North China, ca. 475-221 BCE. The standard signs of osteoarthritis, marginal lipping and extensive eburnation, were observed in the patellofemoral compartment of the knee joint. In addition however were bilateral pressure-caused fossae on the extra-articular anterior surfaces of the distal femora 10 mm proximal to the large osteophytes at the apex of the patellar surfaces. Anatomy and possible pathogenesis of knee arthritis are explored in order to come to a tentative aetiology of the extra-articular lesions. These lesions are suggested to be a new criterion for identifying severe knee arthritis. The osteological phenomenon is then placed into archaeological context of the Warring States period of ancient China.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2018.07.005DOI Listing
March 2019

Osteoarthritis, labour division, and occupational specialization of the Late Shang China - insights from Yinxu (ca. 1250 - 1046 B.C.).

PLoS One 2017 2;12(5):e0176329. Epub 2017 May 2.

Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

This research investigates the prevalence of human osteoarthritis at Yinxu, the last capital of the Late Shang dynasty (ca. 1250-1046 B.C.), to gain insights about lifeways of early urban populations in ancient China. A total of 167 skeletal remains from two sites (Xiaomintun and Xin'anzhuang) were analyzed to examine osteoarthritis at eight appendicular joints and through three spinal osseous indicators. High osteoarthritis frequencies were found in the remains with males showing significantly higher osteoarthritis on the upper body (compared to that of the females). This distinctive pattern becomes more obvious for males from Xiaomintun. Furthermore, Xiaomintun people showed significantly higher osteoarthritis in both sexes than those from Xin'anzhuang. Higher upper body osteoarthritis is speculated to be caused by repetitive lifting and carrying heavy-weight objects, disproportionately adding more stress and thus more osseous changes to the upper than the lower body. Such lifting-carrying could be derived from intensified physical activities in general and specialized occupations in particular. Higher osteoarthritis in males may reveal a gendered division of labour, with higher osteoarthritis in Xiaomintun strongly indicating an occupational difference between the two sites. The latter speculation can be supported by the recovery of substantially more bronze-casting artifacts in Xiaomintun. It is also intriguing that relatively higher osteoarthritis was noticed in Xiaomintun females, which seems to suggest that those women might have also participated in bronze-casting activities as a "family business." Such a family-involved occupation, if it existed, may have contributed to establishment of occupation-oriented neighborhoods as proposed by many Shang archaeologists.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176329PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5413014PMC
September 2017

Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East.

Nature 2016 08 25;536(7617):419-24. Epub 2016 Jul 25.

We report genome-wide ancient DNA from 44 ancient Near Easterners ranging in time between ~12,000 and 1,400 bc, from Natufian hunter-gatherers to Bronze Age farmers. We show that the earliest populations of the Near East derived around half their ancestry from a 'Basal Eurasian' lineage that had little if any Neanderthal admixture and that separated from other non-African lineages before their separation from each other. The first farmers of the southern Levant (Israel and Jordan) and Zagros Mountains (Iran) were strongly genetically differentiated, and each descended from local hunter-gatherers. By the time of the Bronze Age, these two populations and Anatolian-related farmers had mixed with each other and with the hunter-gatherers of Europe to greatly reduce genetic differentiation. The impact of the Near Eastern farmers extended beyond the Near East: farmers related to those of Anatolia spread westward into Europe; farmers related to those of the Levant spread southward into East Africa; farmers related to those of Iran spread northward into the Eurasian steppe; and people related to both the early farmers of Iran and to the pastoralists of the Eurasian steppe spread eastward into South Asia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature19310DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5003663PMC
August 2016

Osteoarchaeological Studies of Human Systemic Stress of Early Urbanization in Late Shang at Anyang, China.

PLoS One 2016 6;11(4):e0151854. Epub 2016 Apr 6.

Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Through the analysis of human skeletal remains and mortuary practice in Yinxu, this study investigates the impact of early urbanization on the commoners during the Late Shang dynasty (ca. 1250-1046 B.C.). A total of 347 individuals examined in this study represent non-elites who were recovered from two different burial contexts (formally buried in lineage cemeteries and randomly scattered in refuse pits). Frequencies of enamel hypoplasia (childhood stress), cribra orbitalia (childhood stress and frailty) and osteoperiostitis (adult stress) were examined to assess systemic stress exposure. Our results reveal that there was no significant difference in the frequency of enamel hypoplasia between two burial groups and between sexes, suggesting these urban commoners experienced similar stresses during childhood, but significantly elevated levels of cribra orbitalia and osteoperiostitis were observed in the refuse pit female cohort. Theoretically, urbanization would have resulted in increased population density in the urban centre, declining sanitary conditions, and increased risk of resource shortage. Biologically, children would be more vulnerable to such physiological disturbance; as a result, high percentages of enamel hypoplasia (80.9% overall) and cribra orbitalia (30.3% overall) are observed in Yin commoners. Adults continued to suffer from stress, resulting in high frequencies of osteoperiostitis (40.0% total adults); in particular, in the refuse pit females who may also reflect a compound impact of gender inequality. Our data show that the non-elite urban population in the capital city of Late Shang Dynasty had experienced extensive stress exposure due to early urbanization with further social stratification only worsening the situation, and eventually contributing to collapse of the Shang Dynasty.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0151854PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822842PMC
August 2016