The Japanese medieval period encompassed almost 400 years, between 1185 and 1573 AD. Previous research of human skeletal remains from medieval Kamakura City has shown that medieval people had a poor level of health and general living conditions because of malnutrition and interpersonal violence. The aims of this study are to apply bioarchaelogical analyses to a new series of human skeletal remains from the Nozoji-ato site in Kamakura City and to test the hypothesis that the bioarchaeological features that characterize medieval Japanese people are commonly seen in the new skeletal series. The Nozoji-ato site has been dated to a chronological age of between 1500 and 1700 AD based on the known sequence of coins and vessels, but most of these artefacts belonged to the medieval period. A sample size of 45 individuals was used in this study from individual graves. The results of this study indicate that the sample from Nozoji-ato is characterized by an old age-at-death distribution and high number of caries-lesion and ante-mortem tooth loss frequencies. Individuals from the Nozoji-ato site also tend to lack evidence for lethal trauma, a phenomenon that is frequently observed in other comparative medieval populations. The results presented in this study led to the conclusion that the Nozoji-ato exhibit different bioarchaeological features compared to the populations from the first half of the medieval period and that living conditions at this site were less severe than expected.
Although previous studies have demonstrated successful single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping of modern samples, the potential applicability of this methodology to ancient human specimens has not been confirmed. With regard in particular to the SNPs in the ABCC11, EDAR, FGFR2, and ABO genes, all of which are commonly analyzed in biomedical research, only a relatively limited number of papers on ancient specimens are currently available. We thus studied the SNP genotypes in the ABCC11, EDAR, FGFR2, and ABO genes of mummies from the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. Those SNP genotypes in brain samples (n = 5) were determined using multiplex single-base extension (SBE) primers in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analyses of each gene locus. SNP analysis revealed the mummies’ ABCC11 genotype was revealed to be 538AA (dry-type earwax and low risk for axillary osmidrosis). In the EDAR and FGFR2 genes, the variant alleles rs3827760-CC (EDAR) and rs4752566-TT (FGFR2), indicative of thick and straight hair, were identified. In addition, the ABO genotypes BO02 (SN1-2), O01O02 (Sapgyo), AO01 (Hadong2), BB (Yongin), and O02O02 (SN PK) were identified. Our SNP genotyping of Korean mummies provided us with specific insight into the potential of this methodology for application to the analysis of ancient human specimens. This study fills a gap in our knowledge of the use of SNP genotyping in forensic medicine by proving that it can help to reveal the physical traits of ancient individuals.