View Full Version : Mystery of the grave by the Mazury lake in Poland solved

Jean M
12-21-2014, 03:07 PM

Almost 15 years ago, archaeologists studied burial ground located on an ancient island on the lake Łańskie. Objects found in the graves and their forms indicated that the dead belonged to the farming community living in the third millennium BC. However, the dates determined with the help of specialized methods were older by almost 1000 years, which caused consternation. Had the first shepherds reached Mazury so early?

After several years of investigation, the mystery was solved by Łukasz Pospieszny from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology PAS in Poznań. The researcher focused on the grave of several years old child. With the help of the analysis of radioactive carbon C14 - a popular organic material dating method in archaeology - bone age was estimated at approx. 5600 years. This result was incomprehensible for researchers, because it was assumed that it would be in the third millennium BC.

"The method of burial and grave goods indicated the community, which we call the Corded Ware culture, whose representatives appeared in many parts of Europe 5 thousand years ago at the earliest. They were mainly involved in animal husbandry..." described Dr. Pospieszny.

Why was the result of dating inconsistent with the prior knowledge? As it turned out, the result was affected by diet, and the answer to the riddle was the so-called reservoir effect, associated with freshwater lakes.

Łukasz Pospieszny, Freshwater reservoir effect and the radiocarbon chronology of the cemetery in Ząbie, Poland,

In the 3rd millennium BC an island on the Łańskie Lake in north-eastern Poland was seasonally settled by a group of people practicing a syncretic burial ritual, exhibiting indigenous and foreign patterns. They left behind a small cemetery consisting of at least six graves. 14C dates made for samples of human bones until 2009 did not coincide with the expected age of the graves. Under a new pilot program in 20102013, a series of radiocarbon measurements was made for the human bones and an artefact of red deer antler, along with analyses of the stable isotopes ratios of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in the collagen. The results indicate a significant proportion of freshwater food in the diet, which caused the radiocarbon dates to be too old due to the freshwater reservoir effect (FRE). Based on the dating of the antler, unaffected by FRE, and comparative analysis, the reservoir offset for one of the graves was estimated to 740 radiocarbon years. The results, although limited by a low number of investigated humans and animals, indicate indirectly a specialization in the exploitation of local water resources. Such an economic strategy seems to be characteristic for the societies inhabiting the coasts of the Baltic Sea and littoral zones of large lakes in the Final Neolithic and at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age.

Jean M
12-21-2014, 07:49 PM
Sorry - missed out the really interesting bit:

The identity of people buried in the cemetery remained a mystery. Members of the Corded Ware culture community did not consume freshwater animals - their activities did not include fishing, as demonstrated by isotopic analyses of the bones found in other parts of Europe.

"In this respect, the persons buried by the lake Łańskie are puzzling. Objects found in the graves indicate that the inhabitants of the island belonged to shepherd communities, but their diet was different" - said Dr. Pospieszny.

Archaeologist speculates that the discovered graves contained the people who lived in this region for thousands of years. They only adopted these elements of the agricultural, Neolithic cultures, that they required. On a daily basis, however, they were still hunters and gatherers.