Researchers discover world's oldest family tree, by analysing DNA from 5,700 years old tomb

WION Web Team
London, United Kingdom Published: Dec 23, 2021, 09:48 AM(IST)

Family tree (Representative Image). Approximately 100 years after cattle and cereal cultivation was introduced to Britain from continental Europe, this prehistoric group lived around 3700–3600BC and became some of Britain's first farmers. Stonehenge, the most famous Neolithic monument, would not be built for another 700 years. Photograph:( Others )

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Research indicates that the dead were buried according to the women they were descended from at Hazleton North long cairn. Thus, the study concludes, these first-generation women were socially important in the memories of this community

Researchers have uncovered the world's oldest family tree by analysing DNA from a tomb 5,700 years old. This has shed "extraordinary light" on farming and family among the earliest farmers in Britain.

Scientists have examined 35 people's teeth and bones in a neolithic tomb near Hazleton, in the Cotswolds, which is one of the best-preserved tombs in Britain. The results, according to Dr Chris Fowler of Newcastle University, are "astounding.".

27 of the subjects were biological relatives from five generations of a single extended family. Many were related through four women who had children with the same man.

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According to Fowler, this indicates the importance of descent. It is likely that they chose people who were close relatives of the people buried there in the first place when they built the tombs. They share a very close connection with their ancestors that stretches back several generations.

Researchers from Newcastle, Central Lancashire, Exeter, and York Universities worked with geneticists from Harvard University, Vienna University, and the University of the Basque Country on the project. This study, published in Nature presents the first comprehensive picture of prehistoric family structures.

The inclusion of some very young children in the tomb shows that family was important.

Approximately 100 years after cattle and cereal cultivation was introduced to Britain from continental Europe, this prehistoric group lived around 3700–3600BC and became some of Britain's first farmers. Stonehenge, the most famous Neolithic monument, would not be built for another 700 years.

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Research indicates that the dead were buried according to the women they were descended from at Hazleton North long cairn. Thus, the study concludes, these first-generation women were socially important in the memories of this community.

The people probably herded animals as they moved around the landscape. Their diet was rich in dairy products and protein, and they used pots to store and cook their food. New research suggests that family ties were also important to them.

Fowler said the research was crucial because it allows us to see what was happening in Neolithic society. In carrying out such burial practices, they are tracing their lineage, they are looking toward the future as a community.

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An analysis of DNA revealed the age, gender, and family ties of the individuals. It is much easier for us to relate to those individuals now that we have an improved biographical picture of them, he said.

Fowler states that similar studies in Ireland concluded that remains were not biologically related, which makes the discovery at Hazleton North all the more remarkable.

In addition, researchers found that males who we would call stepsons were also adopted into the lineage, a finding that suggests that blended families aren't just a modern phenomenon.

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