Friday, January 21, 2011

Patriarchal Neandertals

While I'm busy on a cool new project, I wanted to draw attention to a really interesting paper recently published in PNAS by Lalueza-Fox et al. They applied ancient DNA sequencing techniques to a set of Neandertal remains from a single site in Spain. The fossils are apparently the remains of 12 different individuals who were buried in a cave-in. They looked at both mtDNA (which is inherited from the mother) and Y-chromosome DNA (which obviously is inherited only from father to son). Whereas the three adult males of the group had all the same mtDNA type, the three adult females did not. The authors conclude:
These findings provide evidence to indicate that Neandertal groups not only were small and characterized by low genetic diversity but also were likely to have practiced patrilocal mating behavior.
It's not conclusive evidence that Neandertals had a patriarchal culture, but it's certainly consistent with that.

Lalueza-Fox et al. 2011. Genetic evidence for patrilocal mating behavior among Neandertal groups. PNAS 108:250-253.

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