Comparing individuals buried in flexed and extended positions at the Greek colony of Chersonesos (Crimea) using cranial metric, dental metric, and dental nonmetric traits
The Greek colony of Chersonesos was founded in the 5th century BC on the coast of the Crimean Peninsula in the northern Black Sea region. Extensive archeological research has investigated the timing and mode of the Greek land seizure and the responses of the local Taurian tribes, focusing on a large necropolis dating to the earliest period of the colony, somewhere between the 5th and the 4th century BC. Relying on burial traditions as an indicator of the biogeographic origin of the deceased, it was hypothesized that individuals buried in flexed positions were Taurian whereas individuals buried in extended positions were Greek. Here, we test the hypothesis that individuals in flexed and extended burial positions are biologically different by directly analyzing the human skeletal remains. For this, we collected three different types of phenotypic data commonly used for biodistance analysis, namely, (1) cranial measurements, (2) dental measurements, and (3) dental nonmetric traits, recorded for 47 individuals. Using Gower distance coefficients, we combine the three data types in a single analysis and estimate biological relationships among a subset of well-preserved individuals with documented flexed (n = 8) and extended (n = 13) burial position. The estimated distances show a large amount of overlap between the two groups, with the exception of two individuals that are more divergent. To statistically corroborate this finding, we use distance-based permutational multivariate analyses of variance (PERMANOVA) and dispersion (PERMDISP). Both analyses reveal no statistically significant differences between the groups, neither in group centroids nor in group dispersions. Our results therefore contradict the idea that burial position was determined by ancestry of the deceased. This has implications for future archeological research at Chersonesos and other Greek colonies of the northern Black Sea region.