DNA analysis of Neolithic burial monuments

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—Analysis of ancient DNA brings to light the nature of burials in some of the colossal burial mounds in Neolithic France, according to a study. In Normandy, France, monumental burial mounds from the Cerny culture represent some of the earliest funeral structures in western Europe. The earthen barrows can reach up to 300 meters in length and are often built for a single individual and sometimes for two people. Maïté Rivollat, Aline Thomas, and colleagues analyzed ancient DNA to examine the social organization of 14 of the 19 individuals buried at Fleury-sur-Orne, a cemetery which was mainly used from 4600 to 4300 BCE. Previous research has found that Cerny burials in the Paris Basin contained similar numbers of men and women, but 13 of the 14 individuals analyzed at Fleury-sur-Orne were male. The sole female was buried with arrowheads, a symbol typically associated with elite males in the Cerny culture. Two pairs of individuals—one pair buried together in the same monument and another pair buried in the same tomb—were identified as father and son. The rest of the burials were from genetically independent lineages. All individuals had a higher within-group than regional group affinity and were likely more closely related to each other than to other regional groups. According to the authors, the predominance of males and the symbolism of the female burial indicate the importance of male identity and lineages in this regional expression of Cerny culture. 

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Artistic impression of the Fleury-sur-Orne monuments and surrounding
landscape. Laurent Juhel (artist).

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Article Source: PNAS news release

*“Ancient DNA gives insights into a Norman Neolithic monumental cemetery dedicated to male elites,” bv Maïté Rivollat et al.

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