Our approach clearly identified six different mitochondrial lineages (corresponding to five distinct haplogroups: J, H, K, X2 and W) among eight human remains, indicating noticeable mitochondrial diversity. During this period, the site might have been the cemetery for a social group with significant genetic diversity.Journal of Archaeological Science Volume 41, January 2014, Pages 399–405
Ancient DNA and kinship analysis of human remains deposited in Merovingian necropolis sarcophagi (Jau Dignac et Loirac, France, 7th–8th century AD)
M.F. Deguilloux et al.
The analysis of ancient DNA recovered from archaeological remains can be used to reconstruct kinship among the occupants of a necropolis and provide a more detailed portrait of the community considered. Such palaeogenetic analyses have been conducted on sarcophagi excavated from the Merovingian necropolis in Jau-Dignac et Loirac (7th–8th century AD, Aquitaine, southwest France). The genetic study consisted of the analysis of mitochondrial DNA and nuclear STRs (Short Tandem Repeats) from nine skeletons deposited in three grouped sarcophagi. Only data concerning the mitochondrial genomes could be obtained, and six different mitochondrial lineages were retrieved from eight samples. Our analyses permitted a high confidence characterisation of maternal relationships between individuals deposited in the same sepulchre. These results are important and novel for the period and region and argue that individuals were grouped inside sarcophagi according to relationship criteria. The presence of perinatal remains in one sarcophagus was particularly striking because access to this type of funerary structure during this period was generally reserved for older children. Moreover, we demonstrated genetically that the perinatal remains were not related maternally to two women found in the same sarcophagus (whereas the maternal relationship between the two young women could be determined), and we proposed different possible explanations for this unexpected observation. Overall, archaeological, anthropological and genetic data suggest that the Jau-Dignac et Loirac necropolis groups together the closely and distantly related members of a High Middle Ages familia. Our ancient DNA analyses note the important contribution of palaeogenetic analyses to archaeological kinship studies.