Ancient Pueblo Society Was Ruled By Maternal Dynasty

Posted: Feb 22 2017, 10:45am CST | by , Updated: Feb 22 2017, 11:07am CST , in Latest Science News


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Prehistoric Pueblo Society was Ruled by Maternal Dynasty
Pueblo Bonito located in the northern rim of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, USA. Credit: Douglas Kennett, Penn State University

Using a combination of radiocarbon dating and ancient DNA, researchers have found that a matrilineal dynasty likely ruled Pueblo Bonito in New Mexico for more than 300 years

A unique Pueblo culture was thriving in the high-desert landscape of Chaco Canyon thousands of years ago. The native American society possessed a complex network of homes carved into the sides of the cliff which was connecting hundreds of communities to each other.

Researchers had long thought that this prehistoric Puebloan culuture was more like a leaderless conglomeration of people rather than a society controlled by a ruler. However, a new research suggests that this society was not flourishing without leadership. In fact, it was a hierarchically organized society with leadership inherited through the female line.

Researchers have made the discovery by analyzing the genomes of nine individuals who were buried in an elaborate crypt in Pueblo Bonito – a multi story settlement with around 650 rooms that archaeologists first excavated in 1896.

Elaborate graves are rarely found in the ancient Pueblo as most of the deceased people of the society were buried outside their housing compounds with limited goods. However, 14 burials found in room 33 are exceptional. The grandest grave in the crypt contained the remains of a male in his 40s who died from a lethal blow to the head. This burial is adorned with more than 11,000 turquoise beads, 3,300 shell beads; and other artifacts originated from the Pacific Coast and Gulf of California. This is the richest ever found in the North American Southwest.

Another individual was buried with about 5,800 turquoise pieces, suggesting that the crypt was purposely constructed for a high-status member or leader of the community and his lineal descendants.

When researchers conducted DNA analysis of the nine individuals within the crypt, researchers found that all shared the same mitochondrial genome sequence. Radiocarbon dating showed that the skeletons had been interred in the crypt at regular intervals from 800 to 1130.

The means that all the individuals buried in the crypt belonged to the same family and the command was passed down through maternal lineage - from the mother.

“We are not saying that this was a state-level society. But we don't think it was egalitarian either. Using DNA sequences from the nuclear genome combined with the radiocarbon dates, we identified a mother-daughter pair and a grandmother-grandson relationship," said Douglas J. Kennett, head and professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University.

"For the first time, we're saying that one kinship group controlled Pueblo Bonito for more than 300 years. This is the best evidence of a social hierarchy in the ancient Southwest."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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