A high-resolution picture of kinship practices in an Early Neolithic tomb

Fowler, Chris, Olalde, Iñigo, Cummings, Vicki orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9460-1517, Armit, Ian, Buster, Lindsay, Cuthbert, Sarah, Rohland, Nadin, Cheronet, Olivia, Pinhasi, Ron et al (2021) A high-resolution picture of kinship practices in an Early Neolithic tomb. Nature . ISSN 0028-0836

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04241-4


To explore kinship practices at chambered tombs in Early Neolithic Britain, here we combined archaeological and genetic analyses of 35 individuals who lived about 5,700 years ago and were entombed at Hazleton North long cairn1. Twenty-seven individuals are part of the first extended pedigree reconstructed from ancient DNA, a five-generation family whose many interrelationships provide statistical power to document kinship practices that were invisible without direct genetic data. Patrilineal descent was key in determining who was buried in the tomb, as all 15 intergenerational transmissions were through men. The presence of women who had reproduced with lineage men and the absence of adult lineage daughters suggest virilocal burial and female exogamy. We demonstrate that one male progenitor reproduced with four women: the descendants of two of those women were buried in the same half of the tomb over all generations. This suggests that maternal sub-lineages were grouped into branches whose distinctiveness was recognized during the construction of the tomb. Four men descended from non-lineage fathers and mothers who also reproduced with lineage male individuals, suggesting that some men adopted the children of their reproductive partners by other men into their patriline. Eight individuals were not close biological relatives of the main lineage, raising the possibility that kinship also encompassed social bonds independent of biological relatedness.

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