Ancient populations have commonly been thought to have lived in small groups where extreme endogamy was the norm. To contribute to this debate, a genetic analysis has been carried out on a collective burial with eight primary inhumations from Montanissell Cave in the Catalan pre-Pyrenees. Radiocarbon dating clearly placed the burial in the Bronze Age, around 3200 BP. The composition of the group-two adults (one male, one female), one young woman, and five children from both sexes-seemed to represent the structure of a typical nuclear family. The genetic evidence proves this assumption to be wrong. In fact, at least five out of the eight mitochondrial haplotypes were different, denying the possibility of a common maternal ancestor for all of them. Nevertheless, 50% of the inhumations shared haplogroup J, so the possibility of a maternal relationship cannot be ruled out. Actually, combining different analyses performed using ancient and living populations, the probability of having four related J individuals in Montanissell Cave would range from 0.9884 to 0.9999. Owing to the particularities of this singular collective burial (small number of bodies placed altogether in a hidden cave, the evidence of non-simultaneous interments, close dating and unusual grave goods), we suggest that it might represent a small group with a patrilocal mating system. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
- ancient remains
- haplogroup J