Kinship in Aegean Prehistory? Ancient DNA in Human Bones from Mainland Greece and Crete

Abigail S. Bouwman, Keri A. Brown, Terence A. Brown, Elizabeth R. Chilvers, Robert Arnott, A.J.N.W. Prag

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Abstract

Attempts were made to detect ancient DNA (aDNA) in samples of 89 human skeletons from Neolithic and Bronze Age sites in Greece and Crete. Ancient DNA was absent in specimens from Nea Nicomedia, Lerna, Kato Zakro: Karaviádena, and Mycenae Grave Circle A. For each of three skeletons sampled from Antron Grave Circle B, polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) gave products for nuclear but not mitochondrial DNA, but the yield of DNA was low and inconsistent, with replicate PCRs failing to give reproducible results. At Kouphovouno evidence for mitochondrial and/or nuclear aDNA was obtained from eight of the 20 skeletons that were examined, while at Mycenae Grave Circle B evidence for mitochondrial aDNA was obtained for four of the 22 skeletons that were studied, and in two cases confirmed the evidence of close kinship that had already been suggested by facial reconstruction: this in turn raises interesting questions of social relationships and the role of high-status women in MBA/LBA society. We conclude that, although aDNA might be present in some Eastern Mediterranean skeletons from later centuries of the Bronze Age, it is not commonly found in material from this period and is likely to be absent from older material.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-309
JournalAnnual of the British School at Athens
Volume104
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2009

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