There have been a number of studies on the pre-modern Siberia. Although the pioneering researches provided impressive information to understand the people and society of the region, we admit that there are still many things remain shrouded in mystery from the biological and anthropological aspects. Our project on the Salekhard mummies, under the international collaboration with the Institute for Problems of the Development of the North (Russia) is therefore important. By the proposed research and various techniques entailed on the mummies discovered from the cemetery of Salekhard, a full and very detailed biological and anthropological picture of the pre-modern Siberian people can be obtained.
The Salekhard is the administrative center of Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia. The mummies (n=3) were discovered from the cemetery (66°19'47.93"С; 67°31'59.83"В80) kilometers apart from Salekhard. They are currently maintained in Salekhard museum. This summer, new excavation will be done on the same site.
INVESTIGATION IN RUSSIA (2016)
We stayed in Salekhard for July 10 to July 15, 2016. During this period, we got the samples from the mummies. We got the samples from those of 2016 (newly discovered one if any) and of three mummies previously discovered.
Our research will be mainly focused upon the anthropological studies on the mummies maintained in Salekhard. We have interest in the newly discovered mummies of this year. However, if it could be possible, we hope to get the samples from the mummies that were discovered before as well. The samples will be collected via a procedure specifically designed to make more accurate analysis of archaeological science.
As anthropology specialists, our team hoped to participate in the excavation this year. However, regretfully enough, we have the schedule during excavation period, so we have to skip the archaeological excavation, and will go to the Salekhard museum for July 10 to July 15, 2016. Below are our suggestions for collaborative study. If you do not hope to include followings in our list of collaboration, please let me know. Please see below.
Gross Anthropological Study: Fundamental morphometric data could be obtained from the mummies. Stature, sex, age at death and cephalic index can be estimated by measurements or findings of the examination. The pathological lesions still remained will be macroscopically examined as well. No sampling is needed.
Paleoparasitological Study: This is the application of conventional or molecular investigative techniques to archeological samples in order to reveal parasitic infection patterns among mummies. I know that Dr. Sergey Sepchenko have done excellent work on paleoparasitology. So, I truly understand that we must collaborate with him about what would be done on the parasitology samples. For microscopic examination, the samples will be rehydrated, filtered, and observed by light microscope. For ancient DNA analysis of parasites, DNA will be extracted, purified, and then amplified by PCR technique. By analysis of the ancient DNA sequence, we can know the genetic lineage of ancient parasitism. The sample must be the coprolites taken from the mummies.
Ancient DNA (aDNA) Analysis: In general, DNA analysis has been used to investigate the genetic affiliations of the ancient subjects from archaeological sites, for clarifying their origin or the ancestor–descendant relationships between them and the present-day counterparts. For this, the mummified samples will be pulverized to a fine powder using a Freezer/Mill machine. DNA is extracted, purified, and then amplified by PCR technique. By analysis of the mitochondrial DNA sequence, we can know the maternal lineage of the samples. Sampling: any part of mummy samples could be used even though we prefer well-preserved part of samples. Especially the parts that could not be touched by unidentified people could be preferred for much authentic study.
Stable Isotope Analysis: This technique reveals the diets of human populations in history. For studying carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratio, collagen is extracted from archaeologically obtained mummy parts. Using the collagen, content and isotope ratios of C and N can be determined using a continuous-flow stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer linked with a CN analyzer. Carbon and nitrogen isotope compositions (δ13C and δ15N) can be calculated by the analysis. Sampling: we could make an analysis with any part of mummified tissue.
Craniofacial Reconstruction (CFR): This is a technique used to rebuild the living facial appearance onto a skull in order to recognize or identify an individual in history. First, the mummies will be scanned using a Computed Tomography (CT). Skull re-assembly and the CFR from the reconstructed skull would be done by computerized 3D modeling system. As for the average depths of facial soft tissue, a dataset of living people will be utilized. Each major facial muscle will be re-built based upon a databank of pre-modeled facial muscles made by Wilkinson (2003). At the final stage, a skin layer will be added over the muscle and skull structure referring to the facial anatomy, musculature and tissue depth guides by utilizing transparency tools in the FreeForm software. The CFR will be illustrated to visualize and rebuild the complete appearance of the individual, applying 3D computer graphic technology to create skin texture, hairstyle and clothing. No sampling is needed. Just CT must be taking.
Histological Study: We can know the preservation pattern of mummy by histological studies on them. The samples for this analysis are skin, muscle, bone, hair, and internal organs of any part (heart, intestine etc.).
Snapshots during my visit to Russia, for collaboration with my friend Sergey Slepchenko, the archaeological scientist-surgeon in Institute of Northern Development, Russia.
14 hours of travel on Trans-Siberian Railway (Tyumen to Novosibrisk)
Report of our collaboration by Siberian Times.
Report of our collaboration on local TV.
Report of our collaboration on Siberian Times.