Get access

Tracing prehistoric activities: Musculoskeletal stress marker analysis of a stone-age population on the Island of Gotland in the Baltic sea

Authors

  • Petra Molnar

    Corresponding author
    1. Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
    • Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

The skeletal remains from the Middle Neolithic (2750–2300 BC) burial ground at Ajvide, Gotland, are analyzed in order to explore musculoskeletal patterns and to attempt to trace general as well as three specific prehistoric activities (archery, harpooning, and kayaking) that are likely to have been performed in this marine setting of fishing, hunting, and gathering. Scoring of muscular and ligament attachments is performed using the scoring method of Hawkey and Merbs ([1995] Int. J. Osteoarchaeol. 5:324–338) for muskuloskeletal stress markers (MSM). The skeletal material consists of 24 male and 15 female adult individuals divided into three age groups: young (<24 years), middle (25–39 years), and old (>40 years). Thirty upper body MSM sites, on both the left and right sides, are scored and form the basis of the study. Results show that males most frequently have higher mean MSM scores than females. Bilateral asymmetry was noted as low in both sexes. Age proved to be a contributing factor to increased MSM scores, with a greater age-related increase in females. MSM patterns were analyzed statistically in muscle groups associated with the three investigated activities. Significant positive correlations were observed in male individuals in muscle groups associated with archery and to some extent harpooning, an indication that these activities would mainly have been performed by men. Correlations in kayaking muscles were not evidently consistent with the kayaking motion. Furthermore, the costoclavicular ligament, often referred to in connection with “kayaker's clavicle,” showed no positive statistical correlation with the kayaking muscles. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Ancillary