Republication from   sciencedaily

Burial site reconstructions and location. ( Left) Burial orientation of human and horse graves at Niederstotzingen. ( Right) Location of burial site in southwest Germany. (Image: Niall O’Sullivan et al )

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In 1962, an Alemannic burial site containing human skeletal remains was discovered in Niederstotzingen (Baden-Württemberg, Germany). Researchers at the Eurac Research Centre in Bozen-Bolzano, Italy, and at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, have now examined the DNA of these skeletal remains.

This has enabled them to determine not only the sex and the degree of kinship of those people but also their ancestral origins, which provides new insights into societal structures in the Early Middle Ages. The results of this study demonstrate that genetic research can complement research made by archaeologists and anthropologists through more conventional methods. The research was featured on the front cover of the academic journal Science Advances.

 

Archaeologists recovered thirteen human skeletons, the remains of three horses and some excellently preserved grave goods of diverse origin. This burial, which was discovered near a Roman road not far from Ulm, is considered one of the most important Alemannic gravesites in Germany. The site consists of individual and multiple graves, from which it was hypothesised that the individuals had not all been buried at the same time. The molecular genetic investigations have now brought new details to light about the individuals and their final resting place in this high-ranking warrior type burial.

Using DNA analysis the researchers were able to reconstruct maternal as well as paternal kinship. On the basis of tooth samples the scientists could ascertain that five of the individuals were either first- or second-degree relatives. In addition, the deceased displayed a variety of patterns of genetic origin, indicating Mediterranean and northern European roots.

 

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