MSU faculty member’s work featured in Science reflects archaeological hypotheses, impacts on human civilizations

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Anna Osterholtz (OPA Photo)

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State Associate Professor Anna Osterholtz is part of a team of researchers featured in a current trio of articles in Science — the flagship journal for researchers published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science — for their research. that link together genetic data and language movement as people migrated through early civilizations.

“Understanding these population movements will help contextualize archaeological and bioarchaeological analyses,” Osterholtz said. “The scale and temporal depth of this study make it very important for future work to understand how cultural interactions can be reflected in both changes in language and the physical body.”

To read the full trio of articles, visit

Collaborating with researchers representing research institutes and universities across the US, Europe and West Asia, and working on their research since 2017, Osterholtz said she is “thrilled to be able to contribute to such an important study.” great looking at the migration of peoples across the landscape.”

“We contributed samples from two different places in Croatia,” said Osterholtz. “First, from the Bronze Age site of Gusilla Gomilla II (1880-1650 BC), in collaboration with Dr. Helena Thomas from the University of Zagreb. And also, the Roman-era cemetery in the city of Trogir (1st-6th century AD), in collaboration with Lujana Paraman from the Museum of the City of Trogir and Dr. Mario Novak at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Zagreb.

The trio of articles in Science delve into some of the earliest civilizations in the “Southern Arc,” a geographic region stretching from the Caucasus and the Levant, across Anatolia and the Aegean to the Balkans, forming a bridge between Europe and Asia, where the various ancient human cultures spread.

Osterholtz’s research suggests that these cultures, whether lost to history or surviving to the present day, are not only the heritage of the people of the region, but have had a profound impact on human civilization as a whole.

“Currently, our knowledge of the people of many of these cultures, their movements, mating patterns, and languages ​​is scant,” according to the journal articles. “Paleogenetic research can shed new light on the way people of past societies lived and the spread and diversification of their languages.”

The researchers report genome-wide data from 727 distinct ancient individuals—more than doubling the amount of ancient DNA data from this region and filling large gaps in the paleogenetic record—and present a systematic overview of the interconnected histories of the peoples throughout this region from the origins of agriculture to the late Middle Ages.

The research team is led by Ron Pinhasi at the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology and Human Evolution and Archaeological Sciences at the University of Vienna; Songül Alpaslan-Roodenberg at the University of Vienna and Harvard University; and Iosif Lazaridis and David Reich at Harvard University.

Songül Alpaslan-Roodenberg said the findings are examples of how archaeogenetic results can provide a missing layer of information that cannot be obtained from other sources.

Osterholtz credits MSU’s Cobb Institute of Archaeology, the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, and the College of Arts and Sciences for funding support.

An AMEC faculty member since 2016, Osterholtz specializes in bioarchaeology. She has developed research programs in Cyprus and Croatia. Her current research in Cyprus examines the interaction between populations in the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age and the creation of Cypriot identity.

Part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, complete details about the AMEC department are available at

MSU is Mississippi’s flagship university, also available online at

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