Tur S.S.  

Manipulative behavior in Altai pastoralists from the Bronze and Early Iron Ages as assessed through humeral bilateral asymmetry

ABSTRACT: Humeral bilateral diaphyseal asymmetry in  mid-distal rigidity is assessed through the Bronze and Early Iron Ages in three male samples of Altai pastoralists, associated with the Andronovo Culture (the 18th -16th c. BC), Kamen Culture (the 5th – 3rd c. BC), and Bulan-Koba Culture (the 3rd – 5th c. AD).  “Latex cast” method and biplanar radiography were used to quantify the cross-sectional geometric properties, including the areas and section moduli. There is a general pattern of very low level asymmetry in the first two samples, indicating a continuity of similar bimanual activities through the two millenniums BC, despite some changes in the subsistence strategies. In the third sample attributed to the Bulan-Koba Culture of the Hiongnu-Sarmatian period, directional bilateral asymmetry is very high and left-handedness is significantly underrepresented. Besides, there is high right biased asymmetry in cortical defects on the humerus at the insertions of the MM. pectoralis major and teres major, which are known to arise in the period of active bone linear growth. The combined analysis of biomechanical and archaeological evidence suggests intensive one-handed weapon training from a young age in the Bulan-Koba Culture sample. Thus, the chronological change of the biomechanical pattern of manual activities in the pastoralist communities was due to the increasing complexity of the military organization.

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