Skeletal remains of human perinatal individuals from the fortified Iberian Period settlement of Ca n’Oliver ( 6th century to 50 years BCE)
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Perinatal individualsNeonatal lineTooth histologyaDNA
Rissech, C., Witzel, C., Guardia, M. et al. Skeletal remains of human perinatal individuals from the fortified Iberian Period settlement of Ca n’Oliver (6th century to 50 years BCE). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 15, 158 (2023). [https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-023-01863-9]
SponsorshipThe City Council of Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona; Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (1000 Ancient Genomes Project Grant 2016); Swedish Research Council (2013-4959); Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (P16-0553:1); JIN-2019 Postdoctoral fellowship Spanish (PID2019-111683RJ-I00); Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación; Grupos de Referencia Competitiva (ED431C 2021/32) by Xunta de Galicia; SGR Evolució social, cultural i biològica al Pleistocè (StEP), Ref: 2021 SGR 01239
Burial customs in the Iberian Period (Iron Age II) included cremation. Only perinatal and newborn infants were buried directly beneath floor settlement. These infants represent the very few unburned human remains recovered from Iberian sites. The interpretation of these infant burials is in debate, focusing on whether they are unnatural or natural deaths. Our aim is to infer mortality patterns and developmental conditions of these individuals, in order to respond if infanticide was present in these assemblages. A large perinatal human skeletal sample from the Ca n’Oliver site (sixth century to 50 years BCE) from the Iberian Period of the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula was analysed, combining osteological methods together with tooth histology and aDNA analysis. Combining osteological and odontological estimates indicated ages between 22 and 42 weeks of gestation for 47 out of a total of 48 individuals. The remaining individual died at about 6 months after birth. Tooth height and enamel histology indicated in 9 out of a subgroup of 13 individuals a low probability of live birth. The remaining 4 individuals possibly survived birth for less than 2 months. According to morphological and molecular results, the sex ratio of this sample is approximately 1:1 male to female. The mortality distribution is consistent with natural mortality. These perinatal deaths were probably spontaneous abortions and neonatal deaths, reflecting an endogenous mortality profile due to genetic and maternal influences. The present study will serve to broaden our knowledge on perinatal individuals of the Iberian Period.