Neolithic tomb in Spain reveals 'close-knit' community, even in death
|The superposition of different layers of the Neolithic ossuary indicating the individuals|
with the same genetic profile [Credit: Héctor Arcusa Magallón]
Radiocarbon dating suggests that the tomb was used by a community living between 3700 and 3600 BC and spanning about three to four generations. At least 47 bodies have been found. "While the lower layer has been relatively well preserved, numerous disturbances have been observed in the upper layers such as missing skulls, which could be due to a certain kind of ancestral worship," says Prof. Manuel Rojo Guerra, from the University of Valladolid, Spain.
Way of life revealed
In order to examine the Neolithic community's way of life, researchers used modern methods to collect individual data such as age, sex, body height, disease, stress markers and signs of violence. This data was also supplemented by information about diet, area of origin, mobility and familial relationships. "This is the first study that presents a detailed picture of how Neolithic people were connected in life and death," says lead author Prof. Kurt W. Alt, visiting professor at the University of Basel.
|Reconstruction of the original appearance of the megalithic mound |
[Credit: University of Basel, Integrative Prehistory
and Archaeological Science]
Molecular genetic studies also revealed the relationships between individuals in the group, especially on the maternal side. Furthermore, there is evidence that bodies buried close to each other were in some cases also closely related genetically. Apart from three individuals, all of the deceased grew up in the area around the collective grave. A reconstruction of the diet further demonstrates the homogeneous structure of the farming community: the staple food for everyone was cereals (wheat and barley) and animal proteins (sheep, goat and pig in particular).
Source: University of Basel [January 21, 2016]