Tag Archives: Osteologiska föreningen

There is a light in the end of the tunnel

Finally spring seems to have gotten a grip on Scandinavia – the snow is slowly melting, the sun shows its warm face and shines upon us, at least occasionally; the darkness that have had a far too long run this year is withering.

Another sure sign is that one begins to plan for field work; as it seems now it’ll start just after Easter for me, from there on it’ll be a few weeks in the southern parts of Sweden – which is perfect as I probably will be able to catch Jonkoping Sodra first home game against Angelholm in Superettan (football (soccer) Sweden’s second division) April 20th.

Regarding the field work – I’ll let you know when I know for certain – but there seems to start with a survey and continue with a couple of archaeological investigations.

Though I have a lot of things to finish before that, I have an article that needs to be finished about Yangshao for the paper Kinarapport (China report) a report that needs to be finished for the Yangshaoproject, a small article for Benbiten the Swedish Osteological associations periodical – b.t.w. if you have an article on osteology, physical anthropology or an interesting find due to something bone connected as graves, settlements etc. you´re very welcome to contribute (for more information see here). We gladly accept articles in English as well as Swedish. I’ve also need to prepare for a lecture that my associate Johan Klange and I are to hold in Savona, Italy, later this spring about Chinese neolithic painted pottery traditions in the Yellow river valley.

On another note I found some nice prints to hang on my walls here in Ostersund, they been a bit naked. 6 of 9 reprints of Charta Marina aka Charta Gothica by Olaus Magnus (1497-1557). The original was made in 1539 and copies of that in 1572. This reprint is presumably from sometime during the 20th century – the frames are hideous but the maps fantastic.

The southern part of Sweden and Denmark

The northern part of Sweden Norway and Finland

Scotland, a small part of Britain and the Holland


Best wishes

Magnus Reuterdahl

Silence of the finds

It’s been a bit quite here at Testimony lately. I currently read a couple of books that I intend to write a few lines on here and for the Osteological Associations periodical Benbiten.

To give sound to the silence two hits of the 60’s one by its original artists and a cover;

Keep a look out for some pictures and words on “the 3rd grave of Christianity”.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Four Stone Hearth 62

Don’t miss Four Stone Hearth 62 the OSSA edition at the (Swedish) Osteological Associations blog.


Magnus Reuterdahl

the (Swedish) Osteological Association

On occasion I’ve lend my blog to the (Swedish) Osteological Association (OA) now there is no need as the OA gotten a brand new blog; most parts are written in Swedish but there is also an English section and some blog post will be bilingual.

The OA was founded in 1978 with the aim to promote interest in human (physical anthropology/bioanthropology) and animal (zooarchaeology) osteology from prehistoric and historic contexts. At present we have about 50 members, mainly in Sweden, but also in Norway, Denmark and Finland. We publish an Association Journal; Benbiten. If you got an interesting article or information on conferences, work shops, links etc. please contact us via the (Swedish) Osteological Association blog.

From February 2009 I am the head of the Association and therefore it’s mine and the board’s responsibility to keep it alive. For 2009 we plan to publish two issues of benbiten and hold a seminar and/or a work shop.

Welcome to visit our new blogg! If you have any ideas on what’s missing or what we might add please write a comment.

Magnus Reuterdahl

It’s a good day!

This morning I woke up as king of the realm, lord of the manor and as newly appointed chairman of the Swedish Osteological Association.

Here begins my rule! My first task is to take on a new webpage or rather create a blog!

Magnus Reuterdahl

The Swedish Osteological Association’s annual seminar 2009



The Swedish Osteological Association in collaboration with the Osteoarchaeological research laboratory (OFL), Stockholm University, hold it’s annual seminar and a workshop at Stockholm University February 14th 2009.

“Bird and fish bones – methods and seasonality”.

Seminars by Fil. Dr. Carina Olson, the Osteoarchaeological research laboratory (OFL), Stockholm University, Professor Inge B Enghoff, Natural History Museum of Denmark (Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen) and Fil. Dr. Kristiina Mannermaa, University of Helsinki, Finland.

DATE: 14th February 2009.

LOCATION: Stockholm University, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, seminar room, level 3, Wallenberglaboratoriet, Lilla Frescativägen 7.

Språk/language: Swedish and English

Chair: Senior lecturer Jan Storå 


13.00-13.15 Welcome

13.15-14.00 Fil. Dr. Carina Olson, Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Stockholm University. “Tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler”. (Interpretations of fish bones in archaeological contexts; seminar in Swedish)

14.00-14.45 Professor Inge Bødker Enghoff, Natural History Museum of

Denmark (Zoological Museum), University of Copenhagen. “Archaeoichthyology: Size estimates and repesentation of skeletal elements”. programfeb2009a1

14.45-15.15 Coffee.

15.15-16.00 Fil. Dr. Kristiina Mannermaa, University of Helsinki, “Bird bones in graves at Yuzhniy Oleniy ostrov (Russian Karelia)”.

16.00-18.00 Workshop two sessions/species (16.00-16.45 and 16.45-17.30)

18.00-18.30 Discussion and reflection.

18.30 Dinner at the Department



Carina Olson “Tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler” (In Swedish)

Vid tolkning av fiskben från arkeologiska lokaler används metoder som kroppslängd- och viktberäkning, ålders- och säsongsbedömning. Exempel på detta där kotor och otoliter av torsk använts kommer att visas och sedan praktiskt provas på. En aspekt på kvantifiering är att jämföra NISP och antal förekomster per kontext får man fram olika slags information från kvantifieringen. Istället för att bara erhålla antal per art från en boplats (NISP), får man genom antal artförekomster per kontext fram fler dimensioner till tolkningen. Till exempel hanteringen av fisk (eller andra djurben) inom en boplatsyta, vilket indikerar hur aktiviteter rumsligt förekommit inom lokalen.

(I’ll translate this later tonight)

Inge Bødker Enghoff “Archaeoichthyology: Size estimates and representationskeletal elements”

Measurements of subfossil fish bones can be used for estimating the total length of the fish from which the bones derive. The total length of the fish can in turn be used for inferences about fishing methods and season. The relative frequency of, e.g., bones from head vs. body, can be used for inferences about processing of the fish for consumption. However, the method of excavation needs to be taken into consideration when interpreting the finds. The talk will be illustrated with examples from the author’s own research on fish bones assemblages from Danish sites, e.g., Vængesø III (Mesolithic), Viborg Søndersø (Viking Age), and Selsø Vestby (Medieval).

Kristiina Mannermaa “Bird bones in graves at Yuzhniy Oleniy ostrov (Russian Karelia)”

Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov in Karelia, northwestern Russia, is the largest known Mesolithic cemetery in northern Europe. Most of the graves are well preserved, and a wealth of materials, including human skeletal remains and a variety of grave goods, has been documented during the excavations in 1937 and 1938. Animal bones, both unmodified and in the form of artifacts were found in the graves. In this presentation I talk about fresh results of the analysis of bird bones from graves on Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov. The most common bird species in the cemetery was the osprey (Pandion haliaetus). By studying the location of bird bones in burials as well as the distribution of anatomical elements,

it is possible to interpret the roles of birds in burial practices. The behaviour and ecology of the identified species can be used for investigating and estimating why these species may have been placed in graves and what kind of significance or value these species may have had for the Late Mesolithic people who used the cemetery.

Participation entries are due no later than febuary 8th 2009. For payment see Osteologiska föreningens webpage (in Swedish) or contact me for further information. The price is 60:- for members and 95 for non members, this includes the seminars, the workshop and coffee. For dinner participants the price is 175:- for members and 225:- for non members.

Programme (pdf-file part in Swedish part English).

Magnus Reuterdahl

Notes from the Osteological Associations 2008 symposium part 4

These are notes that will be edited, I urge you to comment on anything that seems to be out of place or faulty so that I can correct this. The intention is to compress these notes into a far shorter and more focused version to be printed in the Swedish Osteological Associations journal Benbiten during 2008.  The last lecturer of the day was Fil. Dr. Caroline Arcini from the National Heritage Board (RAA), UV Syd. UV is RAA’s department for archaeological excavations, and UV syd is the regional office for the south in Sweden, mainly Scania.

Reconstructing daily life in past populations. The future of Paleopathology.

Fil. Dr. Caroline Arcini


Caroline Arcini started off with a discussion of anthropology and the importance of collaborations to answer questions of what happened, how it happened and why did it happen instead of merely describing what we see.

For example how do we determinate if markers from a trauma are due to an accident or to violence? In some cases as in beheadings, shootings and stabbings these markers can be clear in others as fractures it can be more unclear.

Examinations of skeletal material from Lund dated to ca 1000-1500 has showed that many wounds/injuries have been treated and healed well, this includes both in infections and fractures. Some injuries have healed so well that it is hard to detect them at all, but there are exceptions.


Some diseases lead to Social exclusion for example Leprosy, the oldest written sources of leprosy is from ca 600 BC and comes from China and India. A common misperception is that the disease makes you drop your limbs, this is not the case instead it is bone resorbtion that makes it seem as the patient loses his or her limbs

The oldest finds in Sweden has been dated to ca 700 AD. The normal funerary practise of the time is cremation. The skeletal material with traces of leprosy has not been cremated, is this due to the disease? (Skeletal funerals do exist side by side with cremations through the late Iron Age though they are not as common and most of these have not had leprosy.)

In the Viking Age skeletal material from Lund ca 3-4 % show signs of leprosy.

990-1100 AD                      42/1300 individuals = 3,2 %

1100-1536 AD                    1/1500 individuals = > 1 %

This is material from within Lund which shows that not all were banished to special hospitals. These hospitals were normally placed outside of the cities. It seems as the frequency decreases during the Middle Ages, this might indicate a new view on the lepers for example that they have been forced to hospitals outside of the city.

Leprosy has existed for a long time though it is more or less non-existing in Sweden today; though as late as in 1864 a new leprosy hospital was built at Järvsö where ca 400 lepers lived. Outside of Visby at Gotland are ruins after an older leprosy hospital (St Görans? ca 1300-1540 AD).


Finds of Arteriosclerosis has been made in China (ca 2100 yrs old) and from mummies in Egypt. There are also a few finds from Scandinavia. The finds looks like a dried macaroni or a cheese doodle and has approximately that size. They are found in the cranial region and are very fragile, therefore one should be very careful when cleaning skeletal finds, and when it is done it should be done in a laboratory.

Atherosclerosis is a disease affecting arterial blood vessels. It is a chronic inflammatory response in the walls of arteries. It is commonly referred to as a “hardening” or “furring” of the arteries. It is caused by the formation of multiple plaques within the arteries.

Tooth health

Of the teeth from the Middle Ages examined by Caroline Arcini ca 40 % was affected by caries, this problem is big in both adult and milk teeth. Another big problem during this period was tooth loss.

On teeth we can find evidence of people’s habits for example smoking. Clay Tobacco Pipes gives clearly visible marks on the teeth. Findings of these markers can be dated (in Sweden) from the end of the 17th century till the 19th century. Until the 19th century it seems like it was almost exclusively a male habit.

In situations like this archaeology and ethnology has lots of information to share with each other.

Case study the Dome of Linköping

Caroline Arcini has skeletal material from 560 graves, dating to ca 1100-1810 AD, to analyze. In this case there are records such as death certificates from ca 1750 and forth that can be compared with the analyses and church books regarding who is buried where, date of birth and death etc. In other words a great part of this material comes with answers and should be possible to use as a Swedish standards.

Possibilities regarding age estimations which in turn is important concerning issues of health etc.

In a well documented material as this one can study and interpret living conditions. Here we cam find information about access to food, occupation, kinship etc. All this information is interesting when compeered to Osteological data, for examples, common traits, teeth hypolasia. The key to all this is of course dating and identifying the individuals.

When studying welfare three components are important; Age groups, how old did the population get, stature and child morality.

A part of the study will be concerning Tuberculosis. Between 1780-1810 there were 4500 deaths recorded, of these 36 (8 %) were recorded to have died from TB. An estimation is that 5-7 % would have skeletal TB and 2-3 5 TB on the spine. Of these 4500 individuals 140 has been exhumed, among these 1 can be expected to have had TB.

There are other marks than those of disease.

Arcini have been working on an article that is coming in BAR in a near future concerning man made marks on teeth, teeth mutilation in Scandinavia. In this article she has been studying 60 teeth from Gotland, 1 from Öland, 1 from Denmark and 4 from Scania. All teeth have been filed. These are among the few finds in Europe, though there are several other finds in the world.

This concludes my notes from the symposium. I’ll now start working on a summary that will be presented in the Osteological Associations annual, Benbiten, later this year.

Remember that these are notes that will be edited, I urge you to comment on anything that seems to be out of place or faulty so that I can correct this.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Notes of the Osteological Association’s 2008 symposium part 3

This lecture deals with ancient DNA and archaeological research concerning DNA, it is not my field of expertise and it is quite possible that if something seems amiss or odd it is due to fact that I have misunderstood it, if so please send me a mail or make a comment so that I can correct it.

Magnus Reuterdahl

The fourth lecture of the day was held by Anna Linderholm, PhD student at the Archaeological Research Laboratory (AFL), Stockholm University.

“Ancient DNA and Pathology”

Anna Linderholm


Anna started the lecture with a question; what is DNA?

There are different types of DNA, Chromosomal DNA or nuclear DNA (nDNA) and Mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA. nDNA is the most common DNA used in forensic examinations and mtDNA is most often used while dealing with Ancient DNA. mtDNA is located in organelles called mitochondria while most other DNA is found in the cell nucleus.

One way to find diseases through DNA is to identify DNA from Prokaryote Bacteria. They are a group of organisms that lack a cell nucleus, or any other membrane-bound organelles. Most are unicellular, but some prokaryotes are multicellular organisms. Their DNA can range from 12-160’000 base pairs (bp) (The size of an individual gene is often measured in bp as DNA is usually double-stranded). Bacterias genetic material is typically a single circular chromosome located in the cytoplasm in an irregularly shaped body called the nucleoid.

The extraction process

An ancient DNA laboratory is a sterile environment, it is important that the DNA does not get contaminated. DNA can be extracted from bone and teeth but also coprolites or soft tissue as hair from a mammoth.

When extracting DNA from bone or teeth one normally starts with using a drill and then one separates the organic material from the inorganic material. After this one has to purify the material and multiply it.

To multiply DNA a method called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is used, basically this means that you create an artificial DNA cell.

The Analysis

Step one is to dye the DNA, when this is done the analyst for the first is able to see if he or she has extracted any DNA. Though if there is DNA he or she can say if it is the right kind of DNA.


What diseases have been identfied through analysis of ancient DNA? Tubercolosis is the most studied so far others are leprocy, palgue, kolera and syphilis etc. These are all tracable through pathogenic bacterias (e.g. bacterias that can cause disease).

There are several examples of projects that have given intresting results. At AFL several intersting project has been carried out, for example:

“Kronan” – Tuberculosis

Emilia Nuorala worked on samples from the man-of-war Kronan. Kronan sunk in the Baltic Sea outside of Öland in battle with a Danish Dutch fleet during the Scandia war in 1676. Ca 800 died and 42 survived the battle. From the excavation some 400 kg of bone as been rescued, these bones are in excellent condition for DNA analysis as they have been lying in darkness and in an oxygen free environment.

20 samples have been tested for TB using PCR, in 9 samples from 3 individuals DNA was successfully extracted. The analysis showed that it was possible to find ancient Mycobacterium tuberculosis in skeletal material that showed no morphological indications of tuberculosis, as in the Kronan case.

Björned – Leprosy and TB

Emilia Nuorala also did an analysis on skeletal remains excavated at Björned, an early Christian cemetery dated to 1000-1100 AD.

Five individuals were tested, one had leprosy and two had TB, one of these individuals had both diseases.

Yersinia Pestis (Pasteurella pestis) – The Palgue

Y. Pestis is caused by bacteria and therefore it should be detectable through DNA analysis. There are three pests

  • – Antiqua Pestis
  • – Mediaevalis Pestis
  • – Orientalis Pestis

The Plague of Justinian was a pandemic that afflicted the Byzantine Empire in 541-542 AD. Samples from two individuals were tested for plague. Both died in 542 AD according to the tombstones. The test was made on teeth (M3 + M1) and on ribs. The test was not positive for plague – why?

  • – These two individuals were not affected by plague
  • – Due to taphonomic processes the DNA has not survived
  • – The extraction didn’t work

Protozoa – Malaria

Protozoa Plasmodium falciparum is a parasite that causes malaria in humans. They multiply in the liver and then in the red blood cells.

Interstingly evidence Malaria has been found in Uleborg, Finland, from the 17th century. There are written sources that describes people who died of fever, that might have been caused by malaria. It is known that malaria was usuall in that area until the end of the 17th century. Anna Linderholm has analyised 30 samples but the analysis are not finshed yet.

Other possiblities in the future

Through DNA analysis we should be able to identify viruses for example CMW, Herpes and Smallpox etc. The oldest records for smallpox is written sources dating to ca 600 AD but the disease could be as old as 10000 BC.

Another disease that is interesting is syphilis. It is hard to find ancient DNA of syphilis as it preserves badly. One of the oldest finds in Europe is that the remains of a medieval woman found in Essex, England, dating to circa 1296-1445. Interesting research is being made on materials from the Easter Island; syphilis came there with Europeans in the 18th century.

The limitiations for research of ancient DNA is preservation and contamination. Ancient DNA is fragmented or degrated and as it degrates it alters, the finds are tahta of small amounts and there is always a risk that the DNA is contaminated.

A case study

This project was started by Ander Götheström and has been finished by Anna Linderholm. It is an indirect study of disease, as it concerns a human gene called CCR5Δ32. One aim has been to find if the gene is in the Scandinavian (Swedish) gene pool during the Neolithic another to establish its geographical spread.

Individuals homozygous for CCR5Δ32 are protected against HIV infection. The geographical distribution of the gene is also interesting. More or less it is only found in European populations and has an especially high frequency in Scandinavia and Sweden.

The gene CCR5Δ32 is a mutation, the mutation or deletion has been dated to somewhere between 700 yrs ago to 3500 yrs ago. The gene has been identified in individuals found in a medieval plague mass burial. This find gives an indirect dating; the deletion is older than 700 yrs.

The gene is only present in Europe (in any measurable quantities) where 16-3 % of the population has it. The highest frequency is found in parts of Norway, Sweden and the Baltic states.

This study has analyzed bone material from the Mesolithic and Neolithic. In total 46 individuals have been analyzed. The Mesolithic finds came from Skateholm and Huseby-Klev and the Neolithic finds are from the Funnel Beaker Culture (TRB) ca 4200-2800 BC and the Pitted ware culture (GRK) ca 3200-2300 BC. Among the others the finds are from Visby, Jettböle, Dragby, Ire, Hjelmars rör and Rössberga.

In this study, two methods has been used to extract DNA. Ander Götheström used the guanidium method and thiocyanate extraction while Anna Linderholm used a method called fishing extraction to find the nuclear marker CCR5Δ32.

In 19 of the 46 individuals they successfully extracted DNA and in 10 of these they identified the CCR5Δ32 gene. These individuals came from at least two Neolithic sites and from Skateholm (As I understood it the dating of the individual is not entirely certain), which is from the Mesolithic.

One conclusion is that approximately 17 % of the Neolithic individuals hade the gene, compared to today’s 14 %.

Why is the frequency so high?

The bottleneck theory is one possibility. For example an epidemic happens and those with the CCR5Δ32 gene survives as do a part of those who don’t have it. But the bottleneck increases the percentage of the population with the CCR5Δ32 gene.

Anna Linderholm holds the smallpox theory as the most likely but there are also others for example the plague theory and the Viking theory.

The Palgue theory does not hold as the CCR5Δ32 does not protect against Yersinia infection, and so it would not have conferred a survival advantage.

The Viking theory is based upon the fact that it is most usual in Scandinavia and that the mutation can be found in the areas the Vikings traveled.

The smallpox theory is that the mutation increased in prevalence as the result of smallpox epidemics. It has been suggested that it may have provided the selective pressure for the CCR5Δ32 mutation.


The findings in this study prove that the mutation is more than 4000 yrs old and possibly older than 6000 yrs.

The End of this lecture, lhe last will come soon (Caroline Arcini)

Remember that these are notes that will be edited, I urge you to comment on anything that seems to be out of place or faulty so that I can correct this. The intention is to compress these notes into a far shorter and more focused version to be printed in the Swedish Osteological Associations journal Benbiten during 2008.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Sold out! The Osteological Association’s symposium 2008.

On this Saturday it is time for the Osteological Association’s symposium and I am happy to report that it is fully booked; more than 60 people will attend. I will publish a report on the symposium as soon as I can, probably early next week.

Magnus Reuterdahl

%d bloggers like this: