New DNA analysis of ancient Pueblo skeletal remains suggests that a dynasty shaped by maternal lineage ruled Pueblo Bonito in New Mexico for more than 300 years.
DNA from centuries-old skeletal remains gave way to the new findings, according to Science Daily.
“We are not saying that this was a state-level society,” said Douglas J. Kennett, the head of anthology at Penn State. “But we don’t think it was egalitarian either.”
In the 1890s, in pursuit of artifacts in Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon, a team of people from the American Museum of Natural History found a room in the burial crypt, which was made up of 650 rooms dating between 800 and 1130.
While searching the crypt, they came across room 33, where they found burials from a 300-year period and genes from nine of the skeletal remains.
Archaeologists conducted DNA testing for the genes that were originally found, revealing that nine individuals were all related, with mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from a mother.
“It has been clear for some time that these were venerated individuals, based on the exceptional treatment they received in the afterlife – most Chacoans were buried outside of the settlement and never with such high quantities of exotic goods,” said Adam Watson, a postdoctoral fellow in the American Museum of Natural History Division of Anthropology, Science Daily noted. “But previously one could only speculate about the exact nature of their relationship to one another.”
Researchers concluded that there was likely a matrilineal dynasty that ruled Pueblo Bonito for about 330 years, according to the Maroc Journal.
“We have become accustomed to picturing archaeological descriptions of Chaco and its ruined settlements, its pots, its walls, even its astronomical alignments, yet the people and their social arrangements seem largely absent,” said Peter Whiteley, a curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology, according to the Maroc Journal.
“This work confirms what Pueblo people have been saying for a long time, that the matrilineal system that guides their society today goes back not just a century, but many hundreds of years,” Whiteley said. “It honors the Pueblo sense of their own history, and it’s only possible now because of the melding of all of these different aspects of anthropology – archaeology, biology, and ethnology.”
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