DNA sheds light on traditions of communities 10,000 years ago

The international team, led by researchers from METU and Hacettepe University, shed light on the traditions of people who lived in Anatolia 10 thousand years ago with ancient DNA analyzes from the Neolithic period.

A team of 57 scientists from 11 countries revealed that there may be different types of “social kinship” in ancient societies with the analysis of DNA they obtained from people buried in the same structure.

The articles titled “Ancient genomes in Neolithic Anatolia show the coexistence of various kinship patterns”, in which the researchers included the results of the study, were published yesterday in the latest issue of Current Biology and announced to the world of science.

The experimental procedures and data analyzes were carried out in Ankara, and the study was carried out within the scope of a TUBITAK project with the European Research Council project called NEOGENE. The researchers of the study include evolutionary biologist Mehmet Somel from METU, archaeologist Çiğdem Atakuman and computer scientist Elif Sürer, population geneticist Füsun Özer from Hacettepe University and anthropologist Yılmaz Selim Erdal.

According to the information given by the researchers, for the ancient Middle Eastern peoples who founded the first villages in history, the home was not a place built only for the living. These people bury the deceased persons in the pits they dug inside or around the houses, and continued to live “with them”.

Although this tradition has been known in archeology for a long time, the social relationship between individuals buried in the same building remained a mystery. The common assumption was that the groups living in Neolithic houses consisted of family members linked by blood and that those buried in these houses were relatives. However, the latest study has revealed that these groups can consist of individuals who do not have a blood link.

It was checked whether they are related or not

METU Biological Sciences Department faculty member Prof. Dr. Mehmet Somel made a statement to the AA correspondent regarding the article published yesterday.

Explaining that they worked with archaeologists, biologists and anthropologists in their “NEOGENE” project, which they researched in the Neolithic period (approximately 10,000-7,000 BC), Somel said that results that shed light on the traditions of Anatolia’s people of 10 thousand years ago were obtained by using ancient DNA.

Somel provided the following information:

“As the research team, we examined 60 human bones excavated from Neolithic Age settlements such as Aşıklı Höyük and Çatalhöyük in our laboratory devoted to ancient DNA studies.

Using these data, we deciphered the level of genetic kinship among those buried in the same or neighboring households. Thus, we tested whether the people buried in the houses in the Neolithic Age settlements are related or not.

We have seen that in some settlements, individuals with close blood ties are frequently buried inside the households. For example, the results obtained in the people of Aşıklı Höyük (Aksaray) and Boncuklu Höyük (Konya), who continued the hunter-gatherer lifestyle dating back to about 10 thousand years ago, but supported their livelihood with domesticated plants and animals, show that individuals buried in the same structure are mostly siblings or parent-children. showed. However, this situation was not the same everywhere. More surprising findings were obtained from the villages of Çatalhöyük (Konya) and Barcın Höyük (Bursa). These two settlements date back to a period when agriculture was concentrated and villages grew, about 8,500 years ago. In these villages, we were able to extract DNA from the bones of children and babies. Interestingly, it turned out that biological inbreeding among people buried in or within the same dwelling is very rare. “

“They may have lived in the same house with each other without a blood link”

Füsun Özer, PhD at Hacettepe University Anthropology Department, one of the leaders of the study, stated that the results of the research show that there may be different types of “social kinship” from blood ties in ancient human societies.

“With this study, it was shown that families in the Neolithic period could form household groups, not only through blood ties.” Özer said, “We understand that they may have lived in the same house with each other without blood ties. In today’s society, the basic building block is families of individuals connected by blood. However, archaeologists predicted that in the first agricultural societies, the household group could be composed of people who could be like a family with each other even though they did not have blood ties. With this study, we support with genetic data that it is not blood ties that keep those societies together, but that society may be composed of individuals who can act together within the framework of the culture of commonality and sharing. ” used the expressions.

Strong findings on different kinship structures

Hacettepe University Department of Anthropology Professor. Dr. Yılmaz Selim Erdal also stated that there was no biological kinship between a woman buried in the same grave in Boncuklu Höyük and said, “There was no evidence that many of the children buried in the same building in Çatalhöyük and Barcın came from the same family biologically. Çatalhöyük, Barcın and possibly. In other Neolithic societies, we have come to the conclusion that social organization may not be based solely on biological kinship. ” said.

“Such social kinship ties may owe the fact that large populated settlements such as Çatalhöyük have preserved an egalitarian culture for centuries,” Erdal said. found the assessment.

Computer scientist Doctor Lecturer Elif Sürer from METU Informatics Institute said, “Until now, ancient DNA was mostly used to study human mobility. Here, we used DNA data for kinship prediction. We were able to determine that we predicted the level of kinship correctly with the simulations we conducted. The study enabled us to decipher past traditions. ” he spoke.

“We just have begun”

METU Settlement Archeology Faculty Member Assoc. Dr. Çiğdem Atakuman, on the other hand, “The results of our ongoing studies can be a turning point that will allow us to understand human social behavior in all its diversity in historical perspective.” used the expression.

Stating that they want to further the scope of the research, Atakuman stated, “When the study is expanded, much more comprehensive data on social life in the Neolithic period will be included in the history books. We are just starting.” said.

Reyhan Yaka, the first author of the article, who completed his doctorate at METU, gave the information about DNA analysis, “The bones are very old and the molecules that carry the genetic information have degraded over time. Therefore, we were able to extract the DNA of only one third of those analyzed.”