Neolithic DNA samples discovered in Spanish tomb

Image of Santo Tomas de Aquino pool in Estepona. Credit: [email protected]

A 6,000-YEAR-OLD burial site for members of a Neolithic farming community has been discovered in Northern Spain, a recently published study in the journal PLOS One reported. 

The research into the megalithic tomb at Alto de Reinoso was supported and funded by the Junta de Castilla y Leon, the German Research Foundation and two universities in Germany and Austria. 

The mass grave first piqued the scientists’ interest because of its wood and stone structure, which is unusual for tombs already discovered from the period, most of which were made entirely from stone. 

The authors behind the research were excavating an area close to the cathedral city of Burgos when they stumbled across the ancient remains of 47 adults and adolescents, which appeared to have been buried in layers over a 100 year period. 

The closely related were buried at the bottom of the tomb with family members placed side by side. Many of those who had been buried at the top were more distantly related and appeared to have faced a violent end, with several missing their skulls or other parts of the skeleton.

Some experts believe this arrangement shows a shift in ‘social identity’ as collective burial chambers became a popular alternative to individual graves. 

The find has enabled the researchers to compile a profile of the community using tools like isotope analysis, bone analysis and genetics to gain insight into the Neolithic ‘lifestyle, demographics, health status, diet and subsistence, mobility patterns as well as the genetic profile of the group.’

One thing they have learned is that cereals and plant-based foods formed the bulk of the Neolithic Man’s diet. 

Neolithic burial grounds are not uncommon in Europe, but those yielding DNA samples are rare, as their preservation is thwarted by high levels of acid in the ground. 

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