Kashirskaya N.N., Plekhanova L.N., Petrosyan A.A., Potapova A.V., Syrovatko A.S., Kleshchenko A.A., Borisov A.V. The Identification of Wool by the Number of Keratinolytic Microorganisms in the Ground of Ancient and Medieval Burials

 
Natalya N. Kashirskaya, Candidate of Sciences (Biology), Senior Researcher, Laboratory of Archaeological Soil Science, Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, RAS, Institutskaya St., 2, 142290 Pushchino, Russian Federation
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Lyudmila N. Plekhanova, Candidate of Sciences (Biology), Associate Professor, Senior Researcher, Laboratory of Archaeological Soil Science, Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, RAS, Institutskaya St., 2, 142290 Pushchino, Russian Federation
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Anush A. Petrosyan, Student of Faculty of Soil and Ecology, Pushchino State University of Natural Sciences, Institutskaya St., 2, 142290 Pushchino, Russian Federation
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Anastasiya V. Potapova, Junior Researcher, Laboratory of Archaeological Soil Science, Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, RAS, Institutskaya St., 2, 142290 Pushchino, Russian Federation
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Aleksandr S. Syrovatko, Candidate of Sciences (History), Head of the Kolomna Archeological Research Center, Kremlevskaya St., 5, 140400 Kolomna, Russian Federation
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Aleksandr A. Kleshchenko, Candidate of Sciences (History), Researcher, Institute of Archaeology, RAS, Dmitriya Ulyanova St., 19, 117036 Moscow, Russian Federation
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Aleksandr V. Borisov, Candidate of Sciences (Biology), Leading Researcher, Head of Department of Soil Ecology, Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, RAS, Institutskaya St., 2, 142290 Pushchino, Russian Federation
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Abstract. The paper describes the method for determining the initial presence of wool products in the burial rite of several cultures of the Bronze Age and the Middle Ages. The method is based on the analysis of the number of keratinolytic fungi in soils. Keratin is a proteinaceous biopolymer, which is a part of wool, leather, feather, and other materials. Its decomposition in soil occurs with the participation of a small group of soil fungi with keratinolytic activity. The ingress of wool and other keratin-containing substrates in the soil of archaeological monuments in antiquity provoked the sharp increase in the number of keratinolytic fungi. After the entire keratin-containing substrate was utilized, these fungi became dormant forms (cysts and spores), and in this state they could persist up to nowadays. The presence of keratinolytic microorganisms has been determined using the plate method – by direct counting of colony-forming units in media with wool brought into the substrate as the sole source of nutrients for soil microorganisms. The experiments’ object is represented with the samples of ashes of beddings, the cover over the burials, the under-skeleton soil from burials of the Bronze Age, as well as the soils from medieval burials with cremations. The analysis of under-skeleton soil of the Bronze Age burials shows that the samples taken under the knees and under the feet were characterized by a high content of keratinolytic fungi, which may indicate the initial presence of the shoes made of wool or leather. A high number of keratinolytic fungi in some burials has been revealed at a considerable distance from the skeleton, which indicates the presence of items made of wool in the decoration of the burial bed. In medieval cremation burials, traces of leather or woolen containers with cremated remains have been found.
Key words: paleosoils, microbial biomass, microorganisms, archaeological tissues, wool, burial soil, bedding, keratin, keratinolytic fungi.
Citation. Kashirskaya N.N., Plekhanova L.N., Petrosyan A.A., Potapova A.V., Syrovatko A.S., Kleshchenko A.A., Borisov A.V., 2018. The Identification of Wool by the Number of Keratinolytic Microorganisms in the Ground of Ancient and Medieval Burials. The Lower Volga Archaeological Bulletin, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 95-107. (in Russian). DOI: https://doi.org/10.15688/nav.jvolsu.2018.2.8
 
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The Identification of Wool by the Number of Keratinolytic Microorganisms in the Ground of Ancient and Medieval Burials by Kashirskaya N.N., Plekhanova L.N., Petrosyan A.A., Potapova A.V., Syrovatko A.S., Kleshchenko A.A., Borisov A.V.. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
 
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