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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 May 7;116(19):9469-9474. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1818037116. Epub 2019 Apr 15.

Megalithic tombs in western and northern Neolithic Europe were linked to a kindred society.

Author information

1
Human Evolution, Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.
2
Centre for Anthropological Research, Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, University of Johannesburg, 2006 Auckland Park, South Africa.
3
Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University-Campus Gotland, SE-621 67 Visby, Sweden.
4
Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Paleoecology, School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, L3 3AF Liverpool, United Kingdom.
5
Department of Surgery, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, NSW 2050, Australia.
6
Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.
7
Museums and Special Collections, Sir Duncan Rice Library, University of Aberdeen, AB24 3AA Aberdeen, Scotland.
8
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
9
Department of Prehistorical Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology of Czech Academy of Sciences, CZ-11801 Prague, Czech Republic.
10
Archaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.
11
Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden; jan.stora@ofl.su.se mattias.jakobsson@ebc.uu.se.
12
Human Evolution, Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden; jan.stora@ofl.su.se mattias.jakobsson@ebc.uu.se.

Abstract

Paleogenomic and archaeological studies show that Neolithic lifeways spread from the Fertile Crescent into Europe around 9000 BCE, reaching northwestern Europe by 4000 BCE. Starting around 4500 BCE, a new phenomenon of constructing megalithic monuments, particularly for funerary practices, emerged along the Atlantic façade. While it has been suggested that the emergence of megaliths was associated with the territories of farming communities, the origin and social structure of the groups that erected them has remained largely unknown. We generated genome sequence data from human remains, corresponding to 24 individuals from five megalithic burial sites, encompassing the widespread tradition of megalithic construction in northern and western Europe, and analyzed our results in relation to the existing European paleogenomic data. The various individuals buried in megaliths show genetic affinities with local farming groups within their different chronological contexts. Individuals buried in megaliths display (past) admixture with local hunter-gatherers, similar to that seen in other Neolithic individuals in Europe. In relation to the tomb populations, we find significantly more males than females buried in the megaliths of the British Isles. The genetic data show close kin relationships among the individuals buried within the megaliths, and for the Irish megaliths, we found a kin relation between individuals buried in different megaliths. We also see paternal continuity through time, including the same Y-chromosome haplotypes reoccurring. These observations suggest that the investigated funerary monuments were associated with patrilineal kindred groups. Our genomic investigation provides insight into the people associated with this long-standing megalith funerary tradition, including their social dynamics.

KEYWORDS:

megalithic tombs; migration; paleogenomics; population genomics

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