British newspapers report that living residents of Nienstedt, a village in the foothills of the Harz Mountains in Lower Saxony, have been found by DNA analysis to be relatives of 3000-year-old Bronze Age inhabitants of the same area interred in the nearby LichtensteinhÃ¶hle cave.
The good news for two villagers in the SÃ¶se valley of Germany yesterday was that they have discovered their (127th times)-great grandparents.
The bad news is that their long-lost ancestors may have grilled and eaten other members of their clan.
Every family has its skeletons in the cave, though, so Manfred Hucht-hausen, 58, a teacher, and 48-year-old 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. â€œI can trace my family back by name to 1550,â€ Mr Lange said. â€œNow I can go back 120 generations.â€
Mr Lange comes from the village of Nienstedt, in Lower Saxony, in the foothills of the Harz mountain range. â€œWe used to play in these caves as kids. If Iâ€™d known that there were 3,000-year-old relatives buried there I wouldnâ€™t have set foot in the place.â€
The cave, the LichtensteinhÃ¶hle, 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. …
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 â€“ and a match was found.
The bones of 40 people were shielded from the elements by calcium deposits that formed a protective skin around the skeletons.
All the remains turned out to be from the same family group who had a distinctive – and rare – DNA pattern.
When people in the local area were tested with saliva swabs, two nearby residents turned out to have the same distinctive genetic characteristic.
Manfred Huchthausen, a 58-year-old teacher, and Uwe Lange, a 48-year-old surveyer, now believe they are even more local than either of them thought.
Inma Pazos at iGENEA Forum provides more specific information.
(translated & abridged)
DNA analysis really found that 15 of 22 skeletons were relatives, constituting several generations of a family clan. In 2007, about 300 DNA samples of today’s indigenous population in Osterode-am-Harz were collected and tested for possible affinity. Susann Hummel, a leading anthropologist, has identified eleven living persons as descendants of the cave burials.
Ten lines of mtDNA haplogroup H, four of haplogroup U, two of the haplogroup J and three of the haplogroup T were identified. A further breakdown in the sub-groups succeeded in identifying U5b, T2 and J1b1. In another case, membership in sub-group U2 was considered very likely.