DNA genealogy to the extreme
Families find their cavemen ancestors
THE good news for two villagers in the Soese valley of Germany this week was that they had discovered their greatgreat-great-great- great-great-greatgrandparents – give or take a generation or two.
The bad news is that their long-lost ancestors may have grilled and eaten other members of the clan.
Every family has its skeletons in the cave, though, so Manfred Huchthausen, a teacher, and surveyor Uwe Lange remained in celebratory mood.
Thanks to DNA testing of remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age bones, they can claim to have the longest proven family tree in the world.
“I can trace my family back by name to 1550,” Lange said. ” Now I can go back 120 generations.”
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. IUd known that there were 3000relatives buried there, I wouldn’t have set foot in the place.”
The cave, the Lichtensteinhoehle, is made up of five interlocked natural chambers. It stayed hidden from view until 1980 and it was not researched properly until 1993.
Archaeologist Stefan Flindt found 40 skeletons along with what appeared to be cult objects. It was a mystery: Bronze Age people were usually buried in a field. Different theories were considered. Perhaps some of the bodies had been offered as human sacrifice or one had been eaten by another.
Scientists at the University of Gottingen found the bones had been protected by a thick layer of calcium. Water dripping through the roof of the limestone cave had helped to create a calcified sheath around the skeletons. Analysis showed that all the skeletons were from the same family.
About 300 locals agreed to taking saliva swabs. Two of the cave family had a very rare genetic pattern and a match was found. The skulls have been reconstructed and placed in a museum. “It was really strange to look the man deep in the eyes,” Lange said. ©The Times, London