16 July 2008

Meet the Ancestor

Two villagers in the Söse valley of Germany received news of the discovery of their great-great-great-great-great-great-(and so on. You get the idea). Thanks to DNA testing of remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age bones both Manfred Hucht-hausen and Uwe Lange can claim to have the longest proven family tree in the world. “I can trace my family back by name to 1550,” Mr Lange said. “Now I can go back 120 generations.”

Mr Lange comes from the village of Nienstedt, in Lower Saxony, in the foothills of the Harz mountain range. “We used to play in these caves as kids. If I’d known that there were 3,000-year-old relatives buried there I wouldn’t have set foot in the place

The cave, the Lichtensteinhöhle, is made up of five interlocked natural chambers. It stayed hidden from view until 1980 and was not researched properly until 1993. The archaeologist Stefan Flindt found 40 skeletons along with what appeared to be cult objects. It was a mystery: Bronze Age man was usually buried in a field. Different theories were considered. Perhaps some of the bodies had been offered as human sacrifice, or one generation had been eaten by another.

The analysis showed that all the bones were from the same family and the scientists speculated that it was a living area and a ceremonial burial place. About 300 locals agreed to giving saliva swabs. Two of the cave family had a very rare genetic pattern – and a match was found.

The skulls have been reconstructed using three-dimensional computer techniques and placed in a museum. “It was really strange to look the man deep in the eyes,” Mr Lange said.

I would have been chuffed to find I was one of those direct descendants. It’s not the first time this has happened: In 1999 an episode of the BBC2 programme called Meet the Ancestors . One episode concerned “Bleadon Man” a 2,100-year-old Iron Age skeleton. Five direct descendants were found in present-day Bleadon. If that’s not enough Adrian Targett of Cheddar, Somerset, has been closely linked through DNA testing with the 9,000-year-old skeleton of Cheddar Man found in the Cheddar Gorge in 1903. Two unnamed children had direct links.


Nunyaa said...

Amazing what technology can discover these days. I enjoy reading these posts of yours Jams.

jams o donnell said...

It certainly is Nunyaa!

CherryPie said...

Wow! That is amazing!

jams o donnell said...

Glad you found this interesting.