Prof. Richards’ story

UBC archeologists help discover mystery Stone Age tribe

Public Affairs

Prof. Richards’ story
CategoryFaculty
NameMichael Richards
ProgramAnthropology
ActivitiesMuseum of Anthropology, Laboratory of Archaeology

 

UBC archeologists have helped to uncover the last known group of hunter-gatherers in Central Europe.

Working with international researchers, the UBC team used advanced isotope analysis techniques to determine that a group of hunter-gatherers retained their way of life 2,000 years longer than previously thought.

“Until now, scientists believed that hunter-gathering cultures disappeared in Central Europe almost immediately after farming began around 5,000 B.C.,” says Olaf Nehlich, a post-doctoral researcher in UBC’s Dept. of Anthropology. “These new findings show that hunter-gatherers continued to exist alongside farming societies for a much longer period of time.”

Nehlich and UBC Anthropology Prof. Michael Richards conducted the isotope analysis that identifies that the two different groups of homo sapiens had differing diets, indicative of their hunter-gathering and farming lifestyles. UBC has the only lab in Canada—and one of a handful around the globe— equipped for archeological research using this combination of isotopes.

The study focused on preserved Stone Age specimens found in the ancient Blätterhöhle archaeological site in Hagen, Germany. The UBC researchers analyzed sulfur, nitrogen and carbon isotopes in the specimens’ bones and teeth while a team lead by Ruth Bollongino of Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz conducted genetic testing, which found surprisingly little cross-mating between the two cultural groups.

According to the researchers, further study is needed to determine the social relationships between the two groups. “How these two groups of homo sapiens interacted is still very much a mystery,” says Nehlich. “Our findings suggest they lived separately, and kept to each other, but at this point, we have no idea if they were friends or foes.”

The study, 2000 Years of Parallel Societies in Stone Age Central Europe, was published today in Science Express journal.

Background

Prof. Michael Richards’ lab, part of the UBC Museum of Anthropology’s $55.5-million expansion project, was made possible with support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The isotope lab is part of UBC’s Laboratory of Archaeology.

Learn more about UBC’s Dept. of Anthropology. Richards is also a researcher at the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

 

Latest Stories

Previous

Giving back to her community

How Kaila volunteers her time to increase diversity and inclusion in Engineering
student

Giving back to her community

"Hearing [female students] say they want to be an engineer one day because of those events and initiatives is extremely encouraging" - Kaila Spencer, BASc in Civil Engineering

Life after UBC: working at Canada's biggest bank

How Nene uses his UBC degree to help advance AI in finance
alumni

Life after UBC: working at Canada's biggest bank

"UBC is a world-class institution where you can define not only your long-term career, but who you are and the impact you intend on having locally and globally." - Nene Azu, Bsc in Economics

Helping build community

How Jimmy's experiences on both campuses allows him to give back to others
student

Helping build community

"UBC values the diverse and multicultural backgrounds of each student. Because of this, I never felt left out." - Jimmy Chokmeesuk, BA in Psychology

Trading Texas for Vancouver

How Anna found her community in a new country
student

Trading Texas for Vancouver

"I knew UBC was for me when I stepped on to campus for the first time for a campus tour, and had that "aha" moment." - Anna Stone, BSc in Global Resource Systems

Making an impact on the planet

How Ainsley decided to study what she loved
student

Making an impact on the planet

"I knew that nature and forests were always something I was interested in, but I had no idea they were something I could study at university!" - Ainsley Hannah, BSc in Natural Resources Conservation

Coming to UBC as an international student

How Rutendo settled in after arriving from Zimbabwe
student

Coming to UBC as an international student

"It’s the sense of community and planning that transformed my dream school into my second home." - Rutendo Musuka, Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Electrical Engineering

Preparing for UBC before classes start

How UBC's orientations helped set Srishti up for success
student

Preparing for UBC before classes start

"By the end of my Jump Start experience, I began feeling like I was actually a part of UBC - and I bet you’ll feel the same way." - Srishti Gojamgunde, BA in Psychology

Building a career as an artist

How the Visual Arts program helped Barb find her voice
alumni

Building a career as an artist

"I knew I wanted to be a full-time artist, and work towards cultural knowledge and sharing of knowledge." - Barb Dawson, Bachelor of Fine Arts
next