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

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Chris Fowler



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Nature Publishing Group, 2022.

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To explore kinship practices at chambered tombs in Early Neolithic Britain, 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 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 inter-generational transmissions were through men. The presence of women who had reproduced with lineage men and the absence of adult lineage daughters suggests 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 tomb’s construction. Four males descended from non-lineage fathers and mothers who also reproduced with lineage males, suggesting that some men adopted their reproductive partners’ children by other males 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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fowler C, Olalde I, Cummings V, Armit I, Büster L, Cuthbert S, Rohland N, Cheronet O, Pinhasi R, Reich D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature

Year: 2022

Volume: 601

Pages: 584–587

Print publication date: 27/01/2022

Online publication date: 22/12/2021

Acceptance date: 15/11/2021

Date deposited: 23/12/2021

ISSN (print): 0028-0836

ISSN (electronic): 1476-4687

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04241-4

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