Comparative osteoarchaeological perspectives on health and lifestyle of Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age populations from Slovakia, Moravia and Bohemia
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Despite the potential of a biocultural methodology, osteology and archaeology are often approached separately in some parts of Central Europe. This osteoarchaeological thesis presents a rare comparative study of populations occupying modern-day Slovakia, Moravia, and Bohemia from the Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age (EBA). By examining skeletal indicators of health and lifestyle, it aims to contribute to bioarchaeological research within the study region. It also provides new insights into a series of important sites where no osteological evaluation of skeletal remains have previously been performed. Human remains from thirty-four sites in Slovakia, Moravia and Bohemia, 152 adults and 136 subadults, were analysed. Demographic, pathological and metric data were recorded and evaluated, and compared with previously published data for contemporaneous populations in order to create a more comprehensive representation of the populations in the area. The results suggest several differences between the Neolithic and the following periods, mostly as regards health status. Higher dietary and environmental stress was indicated in the Neolithic period, as suggested by lower mortality peak (especially of females and subadults) and about 5cm shorter stature, and generally worse health status of Neolithic population when compared to the Chalcolithic and EBA individuals. The Neolithic is also the only period where females were more numerous than males. Such a trend is quite common in the Neolithic of the study region. This may be a result of increased migration of Neolithic females, as raids for wives are suggested to have been practiced. As indicated by both the osteological and archaeological record, one of the sites examined, Svodín, could have been a site of contemporary elites and their family members. Chalcolithic populations revealed differences in cranial shape, being mesocephalic (medium-headed) or brachycephalic (short-headed), whereas both the Neolithic and the EBA populations were dolichocephalic (long-headed). Differences in male and female cranial features suggest a possible mixing of indigenous and incoming populations. Such results may contribute to the ongoing discussion about the ‘foreignness‘ of Chalcolithic Bell Beaker people in the area. Traumatic lesions suggest that males were more physically active than females in all three periods, including violent encounters. Even though violence was recorded in all three periods, especially in the western part of the region, and the intensity and brutality of the assaults appears to increase in the Chalcolithic and culminating in the EBA. In addition, poorer health status of EBA children was recorded, possibly related to more marked social differentiation in the period. In general, poorer health was implied for the prehistoric populations of today’s Slovakia. The results of this study can serve as the basis for future research and contribute to a more comprehensive image of lifestyle and development of prehistoric populations in the study area.