Antiquity

Research

Death by twins: a remarkable case of dystocic childbirth in Early Neolithic Siberia

Angela R. Lieversea1, Vladimir Ivanovich Bazaliiskiia2 and Andrzej W. Webera3

a1 Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5B1, Canada (Email: angela.lieverse@usask.ca)

a2 Department of Archaeology and Ethnography, Irkutsk State University, Irkutsk 664003, Russia (Email: bazalirk@yandex.ru)

a3 Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6G 2H4, Canada (Email: andrzej.weber@ualberta.ca)

Abstract

Death during childbirth was a significant risk for women in prehistoric and pre-modern societies, but it has rarely been documented by archaeology. The evidence for twins in the archaeological record has likewise been largely circumstantial, with few confirmed cases. Maternal mortality in childbirth is often obscured by the special ritual practices associated with this type of death. In the case of twin births that difficulty is compounded by past social attitudes to twins. The earliest confirmed evidence for obstructed labour comes from the burial of a young woman who died attempting to deliver twins in the middle Holocene hunter-gatherer cemetery at Lokomotiv in southern Siberia some 7000 to 8000 years ago.

(Received January 02 2014)

(Accepted March 27 2014)

(Revised April 29 2014)

Keywords:

  • Baikal;
  • Early Neolithic;
  • twins;
  • breech birth;
  • pregnancy;
  • parturition;
  • obstructed labour