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Nat Commun. 2017 Feb 21;8:14115. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14115.

Archaeogenomic evidence reveals prehistoric matrilineal dynasty.

Author information

1
Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.
2
Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22904, USA.
3
Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York 10024, USA.
4
Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
5
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA.
6
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
7
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.
8
Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.

Abstract

For societies with writing systems, hereditary leadership is documented as one of the hallmarks of early political complexity and governance. In contrast, it is unknown whether hereditary succession played a role in the early formation of prehistoric complex societies that lacked writing. Here we use an archaeogenomic approach to identify an elite matriline that persisted between 800 and 1130 CE in Chaco Canyon, the centre of an expansive prehistoric complex society in the Southwestern United States. We show that nine individuals buried in an elite crypt at Pueblo Bonito, the largest structure in the canyon, have identical mitochondrial genomes. Analyses of nuclear genome data from six samples with the highest DNA preservation demonstrate mother-daughter and grandmother-grandson relationships, evidence for a multigenerational matrilineal descent group. Together, these results demonstrate the persistence of an elite matriline in Chaco for ∼330 years.

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