The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

Reconstructing Moty-Navaia Shamanka: A new Kitoi cemetery on the middle Irkut River


1Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan, 2Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan, 3Anthropology, Economics and Political Science, MacEwan University, 4Scientific Research Centre, Irkutsk State University

April 16, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Moty-Novaia Shamanka (MNS) is an Early Neolithic (7500-6800 cal. BP) Kitoi cemetery site located in the Baikal region of the Russian Federation. This ancient cemetery was originally situated on a large hill that stood out in the marshy landscape, but was bulldozed in the 1990s for the development of the village of Novaia (“New”) Shamanka. The Baikal Archaeology Project conducted salvage excavations in 2014 and 2015, yielding 1246 human bone fragments scattered across 107 square meters. This paper presents the results of a six-week data collection period in May-June 2019 as well as the analysis of these data to reconstruct the people interred at MNS. It takes as its main research question, how can we develop methods to salvage information from highly disturbed human remains in order to better understand the context of the MNS cemetery and reconstruct the individuality of those interred within it? 192 human bone fragments (21.65% of all identifiable fragments) were able to be rejoined into 70 conjoins, while multicomponent analyses of these data, including visual pair matching and GIS, have re-associated skeletal elements into discrete individuals. These, alongside further associations, were tested against the original MNI estimate by Russian anthropologist Dr. Denis Pazhemskii. Our results were used to synthesize a confidence scoring scale that can evaluate associations based on both qualitative and quantitative data. This research is significant to the broader field of bioarchaeology because it builds on faunal, forensic, and bioarchaeological methods to be able to better address issues of preservation in skeletal collections.

This research is supported by the Baikal Archaeology Project, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Northern Scientific Training Program (Polar Knowledge), and University of Saskatchewan Department of History.

Slides/Poster (pdf)