Defend of doctoral thesis in archaeology

Eve Rannamäe will defend her doctoral thesis titled "Development of Sheep Populations in Estonia as Indicated by Archaeofaunal Evidence  and Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Lineages from the Bronze Age to the Modern Period" on 18 November at 16:15.

Supervisors: PhD Heiki Valk, PhD Urmas Saarma, PhD Lembi Lõugas

Opponent: prof PhD Laszló Bartosiewicz (Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Stockholm University)

Summary: Sheep (Ovis aries) have been one of the most exploited domestic animals in Estonia since the Late Bronze Age, providing foremost meat and wool, but also milk, manure, hides and bones. The present thesis contributes to the known history of sheep in Estonia with large-scale temporal and spatial analyses of archaeofaunal remains and ancient DNA. The aim was to investigate the temporal fluctuations of the development and consumption of sheep populations.

The zooarchaeological core of this thesis was formed by vast osteological material from Viljandi and Karksi (south-western Estonia) from the final part of the Late Iron Age to the Middle Ages, used to investigate the utilisation and consumption of animals, including sheep, in sites with socially different background. Faunal assemblages were analysed with common methods of identifying the specimen, age structure and patterns of processing. Genetic studies were performed to explore the degree of continuity in maternal lineages in whole Estonia from the Middle Bronze Age to present-day. For that purpose, a section on mitochondrial DNA control region was sequenced in 134 ancient samples, including 19 specimens from outside Estonia, and in 44 Kihnu native sheep.

Both mitochondrial DNA diversity and consumption patterns of sheep populations revealed temporal fluctuations, connected with the 13th century transition to the Middle Ages, and the large-scale breeding which started in the 19th century. The results were discussed on a wider zooarchaeological and historical background. It was found that the utilisation of local sheep has been constant, displaying matrilineal continuity from the Middle Bronze Age through the Modern Period, and into modern native sheep, despite the observed fluctuations in ancient sheep populations, and changes in ecology, power regime, and other influential historical events.

Jakobi 2-224