Ecological Adaptations of the Kola Peninsula Neolithic People: Postcranial Morphology and Paleopathology

DOI: 10.14673/IJA201511001
Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.1 (1-19) – 2015

Key words: paleopathology, caries, enamel hypoplasia, cold stress.

To examine biological adaptations to northern latitudes in Neolithic human populations of the Kola Peninsula, we compared the skeleton proportions, bone robusticity and pathological changes of the Bolshoy Oleniy Island skeletal series with those of Sami from the 19-20th centuries, who occupied the northern Kola Peninsula. The burial ground on Bolshoy Oleniy Island in the Barents sea dates to around 3500 years ago. The specific values of body length parameters and proportion indices of the extremities, suggest that the Sami people were better adapted to the environment of the Far North than the Bolshoy Oleniy islanders. On the other hand, the extremities of the Bolshoy Oleniy islanders were much longer than those of the Sami people of the Kola Peninsula.
Porosity of the skull cap, facial skeleton and postcranial bones, periodontitis with enamel hypoplasia, and traces of traumas and periostitis of the shin bones were typical pathologies of the skeletons of the Oleniy island people, as well as the Sami. A characteristic feature, however, of the Oleniy Island people’s health was a nearly 100% absence of caries. The Sami of the northern Kola Peninsula evidenced much more frequent dentoalveolar pathologies. One third of the individuals buried on Bolshoy Oleniy Island had markers of childhood rickets on their bones. Diseases affecting both the Oleniy Island people and the Sami were most likely caused by a low level of insolation and the resulting deficiency in vitamin D production, as well as cold stress, a lack of vegetables in their diet, and hence, the lack of necessary vitamins.

Vasilyev, S.V.
Head of the Department of Physical Anthropology,N.N.Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninsky Prospekt, 32а, Moscow, Russia.

Borutskaya, S.B.
Chair of Anthropology,
Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leninskie Gory, 1, Building, 12, Moscow, Russia.