Prof. Dr. Thomas Stöllner

Archaeological Studies
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

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  • Exceptional ancient DNA preservation and fibre remains of a Sasanian saltmine sheep mummy in Chehrābād, Iran
    Rossi, C. and Ruß-Popa, G. and Mattiangeli, V. and McDaid, F. and Hare, A.J. and Davoudi, H. and Laleh, H. and Lorzadeh, Z. and Khazaeli, R. and Fathi, H. and Teasdale, M.D. and A'Ali, A. and Stöllner, T. and Mashkour, M. and Daly, K.G.
    Biology Letters 17 (2021)
    Mummified remains have long attracted interest as a potential source of ancient DNA. However, mummification is a rare process that requires an anhydrous environment to rapidly dehydrate and preserve tissue before complete decomposition occurs. We present the whole-genome sequences (3.94 X) of an approximately 1600-year-old naturally mummified sheep recovered from Chehrābād, a salt mine in northwestern Iran. Comparative analyses of published ancient sequences revealed the remarkable DNA integrity of this mummy. Hallmarks of postmortem damage, fragmentation and hydrolytic deamination are substantially reduced, likely owing to the high salinity of this taphonomic environment. Metagenomic analyses reflect the profound influence of high-salt content on decomposition; its microbial profile is predominated by halophilic archaea and bacteria, possibly contributing to the remarkable preservation of the sample. Applying population genomic analyses, we find clustering of this sheep with Southwest Asian modern breeds, suggesting ancestry continuity. Genotyping of a locus influencing the woolly phenotype showed the presence of an ancestral 'hairy' allele, consistent with hair fibre imaging. This, along with derived alleles associated with the fat-tail phenotype, provides genetic evidence that Sasanian-period Iranians maintained specialized sheep flocks for different uses, with the 'hairy', 'fat-tailed'-genotyped sheep likely kept by the rural community of Chehrābād's miners. © 2021 The Authors.
    view abstract10.1098/rsbl.2021.0222
  • Prehistoric salt mining in Hallstatt, Austria. New chronologies out of small wooden fragments
    Grabner, M. and Wächter, E. and Nicolussi, K. and Bolka, M. and Sormaz, T. and Steier, P. and Wild, E.M. and Barth, F.E. and Kern, A. and Rudorfer, J. and Kowarik, K. and Stöllner, T. and Reschreiter, H.
    Dendrochronologia 66 (2021)
    The prehistoric salt mine of Hallstatt together with its burial ground is one of the most prominent archaeological sites in the world, and has given its name to the “Hallstatt period”, an epoch of European prehistory (800 to 400 BCE). Due to the perfect conservation in rock salt a high number of organic materials have been found, including mostly wooden artefacts and structural timber. More than 2000 samples were taken from various archaeological sites in the mines as well as at the surface. It was possible to date 763 samples by the means of dendrochronology and by 14C wiggle matching. The dendrochronological dating was possible due to crossdating with various available chronologies (like Villingen-Magdalenenberg or Dachstein/Schwarzer See). The fir (Abies alba Mill.) chronologies span the periods: -1232 to -1063; -819 to -425 and -371 to-129. The spruce (Picea abies L. Karst.) chronologies span the periods: -1228 to -1063; -813 to -669 and -342 to -123. The larch (Larix decidua Mill.) chronologies span the periods: -1393 ± 18 to-1286 ± 18 based on wiggle matching data and -252 to -164. A beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) chronology span the time -1182 to -1062. © 2021 The Author(s)
    view abstract10.1016/j.dendro.2021.125814
  • Radiological and histological findings in ancient salt mummies from the salt mine of Douzlakh, Iran
    Öhrström, L.M. and Marquez, H. and Seiler, R. and Bode, B. and Aali, A. and Stöllner, T. and Rühli, F.J.
    PLoS ONE 16 (2021)
    Computed tomography studies and histological analyses were performed on the mummified remains found in the Chehrabad salt mine in northwestern Iran. The ancient salt mummies are dated to the Achaemenid (550-330 BC) and Sassanid (3rd-7th century AD) time period and died in mining incidents. The aim of the study was to describe the radiological and histological findings of several ancient Iranian salt mummies with special interest in pathological and postmortem changes. The mummified remains show multiple traumatic alterations, such as fractures and signs of massive compression. Histological analyses can clearly differentiate soft tissue, however the preservation status is variable. These Iranian salt mummies are a rare example of the ancient Iranian population. The soft tissue and organs are well preserved, however in different degrees due to the varying conditions. © 2021Öhrström et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
    view abstract10.1371/journal.pone.0250745
  • Herbivores coprolites from chehrabad salt mine of zanjan, iran (Sassanid era, 224-651 ad) reveals eggs of strongylidae and anoplocephalidae helminths
    Meigouni, M. and Makki, M. and Haniloo, A. and Askari, Z. and Mobedi, I. and Naddaf, S.R. and Boenke, N. and Stollner, T. and Aali, A. and Heidari, Z. and Mowlavi, G.
    Iranian Journal of Parasitology 15 (2020)
    Background: The ancient Chehrabad Salt mine, a well-known archaeological site in Iran, has recently received increasing interest from Iranian and international archeologists. Also, the biological remains from this site have provided valuable sources for studying the pathogenic agents of ancient times. This study aimed to identify the parasitic helminth eggs preserved in the herbivores coprolites. Methods: From 2011 to 2015, we received three coprolites belonging to herbivorous animals recovered during excavations in Chehrabad Salt mine of Zanjan, Iran. The coprolites were dated back to the Sassanid era (224-651 AD) by using radiocarbon accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) and archeological stratigraphy methods. Following rehydration of the specimens in a 0.5% trisodium phosphate solution, the suspensions were mounted in glycerin jelly on glass slides and examined by a light microscope with 100x and 400x magnifications. Results: Two coprolites belonged to donkeys and one to an unknown herbivore species. The recovered eggs belonged to members of two helminths families, Strongylidae, and Anoplocephalidae. Also, within the two coprolites, some mites, presumably of the order Oribatida, were observed. Conclusion: The presence of two different nematodes in the equids coprolites provide clues of the burden of helminths infection on working animal at the Sassanid time and demonstrates the appropriate preservation condition of biological remains in the ancient salt mine of Chehrabad as well. © 2020, Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS). All rights reserved.
    view abstract10.18502/ijpa.v15i1.2533
  • Why the Nebra Sky Disc Dates to the Early Bronze Age. An Overview of the Interdisciplinary Results
    Pernicka, E. and Adam, J. and Borg, G. and Brügmann, G. and Bunnefeld, J.-H. and Kainz, W. and Klamm, M. and Koiki, T. and Meller, H. and Schwarz, R. and Stöllner, T. and Wunderlich, C.-H. and Reichenberger, A.
    Archaeologia Austriaca 104 (2020)
    It is not unusual that archaeological finds come under renewed scrutiny. This is actually an important part in the progress of scientific research. All the more so when important and ground-breaking discoveries are involved, like the Nebra Sky Disc, which is listed among the UNESCO "Memory of the World". However, in most cases a new assessment is based on new data or insights. None of this is presented in a recently published article by Gebhard and Krause (2020). Instead, their argument is based on early published and unpublished material, which is used and cited selectively and ignores a substantial number of subsequent publications. Since the Nebra Sky Disc is a unique find that was not recovered during a controlled excavation, it can neither be dated by traditional typological methods nor prima facie by its appearance. Moreover, there is no scientific method yet available to date copper alloys exactly, so that the date suggested in the original publication was established by reconstructing the find context and by analysing the accompanying finds that are typologically and radiocarbon dated to around 1600 BC. The find location on the Mittelberg was excavated in great detail and a number of scientific analyses confirmed the testimony of the looters in a court trial that the Sky Disc had been buried there together with the accompanying finds. These analyses also disproved an earlier claim that the Sky Disc was a modern fake. This allegation is not repeated by Gebhard and Krause (2020) but they do use similar arguments for their claim that the Sky Disc was not found together with the hoard and may not even have been on the Mittelberg near Nebra. By contrast, they assert that the Sky Disc should be typologically dated to the Iron Age. It can be shown that their arguments are based on a distortion of the evidence derived both in the court trial and by scientific analyses. They combine their proposal with a superficial typological discussion of the image displayed on the Sky Disc. As this overview demonstrates, through interdisciplinary studies it is possible to determine the origin and composition of the Nebra hoard with the greatest possible certainty. This determination was based on results from sediment attachments, the chemical concentrations of gold and copper in the geological subsoil of the findspot, astronomical references, as well as an analysis of the traces left by the looters, police investigations, and a comprehensive confession by the offenders, which has confirmed the independently obtained archaeological and scientific observations. © 2020 Verlag der Oesterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. All rights reserved.
    view abstract10.1553/ARCHAEOLOGIA104S89
  • Fasciola hepatica eggs in paleofaeces of the Persian onager Equus hemionus onager, a donkey from Chehrabad archaeological site, dating back to the Sassanid Empire (224–651 AD), in ancient Iran
    Askari, Z. and Mas-Coma, S. and Bouwman, A.S. and Boenke, N. and Stöllner, T. and Aali, A. and Rezaiian, M. and Mowlavi, G.
    Infection, Genetics and Evolution 62 (2018)
    Fascioliasis is a highly pathogenic zoonotic disease caused by the liver trematodes Fasciola hepatica and F. gigantica. Within the multidisciplinary initiative against this disease, there is the aim of understanding how this disease reached a worldwide distribution, with important veterinary and medical repercussions, by elucidating the spreading steps followed by the two fasciolids from their paleobiogeograhical origins. Fasciola eggs were detected in paleofaeces of a donkey, probably the present-day endangered Persian onager Equus hemionus onager, found in the Chehrabad salt mine archaeological site, Zanjan province, northwestern Iran. The biological remains dated back to the Sassanid period, 224–651 AD. Egg characteristics allowed for their specific ascription to F. hepatica. The interest of this finding relies on the fact of being the first archaeological finding of Fasciola in Asia and the Near East. Moreover, it allows to reach many conclusions about historical, epidemiological and spreading aspects of the disease. The finding in Chehrabad indicates that, at that time, this fasciolid had already spread through the Zagros mountains eastward from the Fertile Crescent. In that region and in ancient Egypt, livestock domestication played a crucial role in facilitating the disease spread during the postdomestication period. Donkeys appear at present to be usually infected by fasciolids in countries of the Fertile Crescent - Ancient Egypt region or neighbouring that region, with prevalences from low to very high. The high pathogenicity and mortality induced by Fasciola in these equines should be considered as an additional potential factor among the causes of the extinctions of E. h. hemippus in Syria, E. h. hydruntinus in the Anatolia-Balkans area, E. h. onager in the Caucasus and maybe also its decline in Iran. Indeed, Eurasiatic wild asses were present in the region and neighbourhood of the Fertile Crescent when the domestication of the livestock reservoirs of Fasciola began. © 2018 Elsevier B.V.
    view abstract10.1016/j.meegid.2018.04.028
  • Tree-ring analyses on Bronze Age mining timber from the Mitterberg Main Lode, Austria - did the miners lack wood?
    Pichler, T. and Nicolussi, K. and Schröder, J. and Stöllner, T. and Thomas, P. and Thurner, A.
    Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 19 (2018)
    Wood was an essential raw material for mining maintenance in historic and prehistoric times. During the Bronze Age, the Mitterberg mining region in the Austrian Alps was one of the most important producers of copper and, consequently, a consumer of huge amounts of wood. Since the 1960s, archaeological investigations at the Troiboden dressing site at the Mitterberg main lode have uncovered mining timber both single finds as well as box-shaped wooden constructions like wet-tyes which were used to wash and concentrate crushed copper ore. Dendrochronological analyses on a set of mining timber yield calendar dates for these mining activities: a boom phase from the 14th to the 13th century BC, including two felling phases – one in the 1370s and a second from the 1290s to 1270s BC – are verifiable so far. As a result, the wood supply from nearby forests may have been exhausted rapidly, which is confirmed by palynological records from bogs in the vicinity of the excavation site. By utilising a tree-ring growth–elevation model developed by Dittmar et al. (2012), the elevations of growing sites were estimated to detect where the mining timber might have originated. To examine the model outcomes, we used tree-ring data with known origin, i.e., series from living trees and subfossil samples from the Troiboden and its vicinity. The results for the mining timber suggest that the prehistoric miners utilised trees from the vicinity of the mining site in the 14th century but at least partly sought wood from growing sites at lower elevations to continue mining during the 13th century BC. © 2018 The Authors
    view abstract10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.02.039
  • Bronze age copper produced at Mitterberg, Austria, and its distribution
    Pernicka, E. and Lutz, J. and Stöllner, T.
    Archaeologica Austriaca 100 (2016)
    The rich copper ore deposits in the eastern Alps have long been considered as important sources for copper in prehistoric central Europe. However, the role that each deposit played is not clear. To evaluate the amount of prehistoric copper produced from the various mining regions, we attempted to link prehistoric metal artefacts with copper ores based on the geochemical characteristics of the ore deposits that were exploited in ancient times. Alongside the usage of ores as shown by the finished products, the production aspects, the quantity and variation over time must also be considered. Recent archaeological investigation has allowed these datasets to be combined in order to show the importance of one of the largest Bronze Age mining fields in Europe. More than 120 ore samples from the well-known mining regions of Mitterberg, Viehhofen, and Kitzbühel were analysed for lead isotope ratios and trace element concentrations. These results were combined with analytical data generated by previous archaeometallurgical projects in order to compile a substantial database for comparative studies. In the Early Bronze Age, most metal artefacts were made of copper or bronze with fahlore impurity patterns, and most examples from this period match the fahlore deposits in Schwaz and Brixlegg. At the end of the Early Bronze Age, a new variety of copper with low concentrations of impurities appeared. The impurity patterns of these examples match the ores from the Mitterberg region. Later, in the Middle Bronze Age, this variety of copper almost completely replaced the fahlore copper. In the Late Bronze Age, the exploitation of the ores changed again and copper with a fahlore signature reappeared. The reason for the renewed copper production from fahlores might have been a decline of the chalcopyrite mines. But it was more likely due to the fact that the rising demand for copper could no longer be met by the chalcopyrite mines alone. The examples from the Early Iron Age show no fundamental changes in metal composition. The copper metallurgy in the Early Iron Age is based on the traditions of the Late Bronze Age. © 2016 by Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien.
    view abstract10.1553/archaeologia100s19
  • Erratum to Radiological findings in an ancient Iranian salt mummy (Chehrābād ca. 410–350 BC) (Skeletal Radiol, (2015), 44, (811-821), 10.1007/s00256-015-2103-y)
    Öhrström, L.M. and Seiler, R. and Böni, T. and Aali, A. and Stöllner, T. and Rühli, F.J.
    Skeletal Radiology 45 (2016)
    view abstract10.1007/s00256-015-2316-0
  • Radiological findings in an ancient Iranian salt mummy (Chehrābād ca. 410-350 BC)
    Öhrström, L.M. and Seiler, R. and Böni, T. and Aali, A. and Stöllner, T. and Rühli, F.J.
    Skeletal Radiology 44 (2015)
    Objective: To study pathologies, peri- and postmortal alterations as well as the general preservation state of an ancient Iranian salt mummy. Materials and methods: Several mummified remains from two different time periods (1500–2500 BP) were found in the Chehrābād salt mine in Iran. Computed tomography was performed on Salt Man #4 (410-350 BC), the best preserved out of the six salt mummies (Siemens, Sensation 16; 512 × 512 matrix; 0.75–5 mm slice thickness, 240-mA tube current, 120-kV tube voltage, and 0.976-mm pixel size). Results: Radiological analyses showed an excellent state of preservation of an adolescent body. Several normal variants such as aplasia of the frontal sinus as well as a rare congenital deformation of the 5th vertebral body (butterfly vertebra) have been observed. The individual shows multiple fractures, which is consistent with the theory that he died due to a collapse in the ancient salt mine. Conclusions: The salt preserved the soft tissue as well as parts of the inner organs remarkably well. However, further investigations including histology are needed to reveal additional details of the health status of this unique salt mummy. © 2015, ISS.
    view abstract10.1007/s00256-015-2103-y
  • An interdisciplinary study on the environmental reflection of prehistoric mining activities at the Mitterberg Main Lode (Salzburg, Austria)
    Breitenlechner, E. and Stöllner, T. and Thomas, P. and Lutz, J. and Oeggl, K.
    Archaeometry 56 (2014)
    A multi-proxy study by palynological, geochemical, archaeological and dendrochronological analyses discloses the mining activities at the Mitterberg Main Lode. By these means, several mining phases with varying intensity are recorded during the Bronze and Early Iron Age, whereupon a west to east shift of the mining activity at the Mitterberg Main Lode can be observed. The initial mining phase (Phase II), from the 21st to the 15th centuries bc, is characterized by an opening up of the forest vegetation and, additionally, by slightly elevated heavy metal deposition. Phase III shows a first bloom phase of the chalcopyrite mining during the 14th and 13th centuries bc. Pollen analyses disclose extensive clearings used for pasture and settlement. The increased human impact and higher heavy metal pollution suggest intensive mining activity, which is corroborated by the dendrochronological and archaeological data. Phase IV is characterized by mining activities in progress during the 12th century bc. The pollen data reflect a stabilization of the vegetation and slightly elevated As/Cu/Sb to Sc ratios. During Phase V, in the 11th century bc, new clearings indicate a re-intensification of the mining activities at the Mitterberg Main Lode. Phase VI, from the ninth century bc onwards, describes a human impact with lower intensity at the mining site. This interdisciplinary study at the Mitterberg Main Lode contributes new environmental data for an important area of past metal mining and extends our understanding of the relationship between miners and their landscape. © 2013 University of Oxford.
    view abstract10.1111/arcm.12010
  • Methods of mining archaeology (Montanarchäologie)
    Stöllner, T.
    Archaeometallurgy in Global Perspective: Methods and Syntheses 9781461490173 (2014)
    Ancient mining practices are often overlooked in favour of the smelting and working practices that led to metal objects. However, mining was, in many ways, the most socially and economically taxing part of the chaine operatoire of ancient metallurgy, involving groups of people in both intra- and inter-regional trade relationships. Montanarchäologie or mining archaeology is the formal study of ancient mining and ore extraction processes, and includes the study of mining techniques, social organisation and economic networks that made ore extraction possible. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York. All rights are reserved.
    view abstract10.1007/978-1-4614-9017-3_7
  • Identification of Taenia sp. in a natural human mummy (Third Century BC) from the Chehrabad salt mine in Iran
    Nezamabadi, M. and Mashkour, M. and Aali, A. and Stöllner, T. and Le Bailly, M.
    Journal of Parasitology 99 (2013)
    Tapeworm eggs from the genus Taenia sp. were identified during the study of mummy remains dated to 2,286 ± 28 BP from the Chehrabad salt mine in northwestern Iran. The presence of tapeworm in this salt mine provides paleopathological information. Moreover, it brings new information on ancient diet, indicating the consumption of raw or undercooked meat. Cultural aspects as well as archaeozoological data are discussed in order to try to detail meat consumption. Paleoparasitological data are rare in the Middle East, and this case study presents the first recovery of parasites in ancient Iran. It constitutes the earliest evidence of ancient intestinal parasites in this country and contributes to the knowledge of gastrointestinal pathogens in the Near East. © 2013 American Society of Parasitologists.
    view abstract10.1645/12-113.1
  • Paleoparasitological analysis of samples from the Chehrabad salt mine (Northwestern Iran)
    Nezamabadi, M. and Aali, A. and Stöllner, T. and Mashkour, M. and Le Bailly, M.
    International Journal of Paleopathology 3 (2013)
    Paleoparasitological analyses were performed on soil samples recovered from an ancient salt mine in Chehrabad, northwestern Iran (2500 and 1500 years BP). Parasite extraction led to the recovery of a large variety of human and animal parasites, including whipworm (Trichuris sp.), roundworm (Ascaris sp.), tapeworm (Taenia sp. or Echinococcus sp.), lancet liver fluke (Dicrocoelium sp.), and horse and human pinworm (Oxyuris equi and Enterobius vermicularis). These results are among the first positive traces of ancient parasitism in Iran, and the analyses carried out on the Chehrabad salt mine thus contribute to the establishment of an ancient parasite database in this country. They also provide additional information about the lifeway of ancient miners, health, sanitary conditions, diet, as well as human and animal relationships during mining activities. Moreover, these results contribute to our knowledge of ancient parasitism in the Middle East, a key region for parasite history and host/parasite relationships. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.
    view abstract10.1016/j.ijpp.2013.03.003
  • Precolumbian raw-material exploitation in southern peru-structures and perspectives
    Stöllner, T. and Reindel, M. and Gassman, G. and Gräfingholt, B. and Cuadrado, J.I.
    Chungara 45 (2013)
    The article deals with the exploitation of raw materials during pre-colonial times in Southern Peru especially pre-Columbian mining and quarrying activities in the valleys of Palpa and Nasca. Between 2006 and 2009 the Peruvian-German Palpa-project has discovered several places related to the extraction and the processing of lithic material, ores and minerals. All places detected so far are locations with traces of small scale mining. The available evidence demonstrates that production of raw materials has been carried out since the earliest periods of pre-Columbian occupation of the region. Obsidian was transported to the coast since the archaic period and can be considered as evidence of the mobility of the earliest settlers. Gold processing is present in the region at least since the Early Paracas period: Its regional usage increased during the late Paracas and the Nasca-period: many small scale mining operations could be found that provide insight into the organisational level. In nearly all cases the Paracas and Nascapopulations have used and processed the rich mineral occurrences nearby the settlement areas. There are arguments either to relate metal objects with the coastal Nasca-Ocoña belt or with the large central Andean silver bearing deposits around the Lake Titicaca.
    view abstract10.4067/S0717-73562013000100005
  • archaeology

  • lead isotope analysis

  • mining archaeology

  • prehistoric mining

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