The American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Dr Katerina Papayianni, Active research in the Wiener Lab
Project title: "The House Mouse (Mus musculus) used as Bioproxy for the Documentation of Human Migration Routes"

Dr Katerina Papayianni is a returning member of the ASCSA; she has been a Wiener Faunal Fellow in 2007-2008 and a Doreen Spitzer Fellow in 2008-2009. She has received her doctorate from the Department of Archaeology, University of Athens, and she is an affiliated researcher to the Laboratory of Archaeozoology and Archaeobotany of the Museum of Natural History in Paris, France (UMR 7209 du CNRS).

Her research on the domain of microfauna (rodents, insectivores, bats, amphibians, small reptiles) evolved in the Wiener Lab, when she first came as a PhD student in 2006 to use the specialized library as well as the stereoscope and escorting equipment. By examining different microfaunal assemblages from different prehistoric periods (Bronze Age Akrotiri, Mochlos and Khania in the Aegean as well as Paleolithic to Neolithic Theopetra Cave in Thessaly) she obtained valuable knowledge on the discrimination between genera and species of the various microvertebrates as well as recreating their taphonomic histories in the deposits. She focuses in:
• the reconstruction of the paleoenvironment using the different microhabitat preferences of the identified small vertebrates
• the daily practices that depict interaction between humans and small vertebrates
• issues of non-deliberate imports and extinctions of species by humans
• the use of micromammals as bioproxies that show human pathways on the archaeological map
• the taphonomy of the micromammal assemblages

The discovery of the house mouse (Mus musculus) in the Bronze Age settlements of Minoan Crete and Cycladic Thera raised the question of the earliest import of this species to the Aegean and its provenance. The house mouse is imported to the Aegean from the broader area of the Fertile Crescent, which is considered to be the cradle of its synanthropy. Mice can travel with humans either on boats as stowaway cargo or inside the grain containers overland; their archaeological remains can in this way can pinpoint places of origin, destinations and intermediate stops of a human migration route. During her post-doctoral year in Athens Dr Papayianni will locate and collect Neolithic house mouse remains from Greece as well as Anatolia in order to compare and contrast the house mouse populations via i) Geometric Morphometrics Analysis ii) ancient DNA analysis, which can provide the most accurate evidence for the origin of the Neolithic house mouse of Greece.