The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


An ancient DNA perspective on the Iron Age “princely burials” from Baden-Württemberg, Germany

ESTHER J. LEE1, CHRISTOPH STEFFEN1, MELANIE HARDER1, BEN KRAUSE-KYORA1, NICOLE VON WURMB-SCHWARK2 and ALMUT NEBEL3.

1Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes", Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, 2Institute of Legal Medicine, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, 3Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel

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During the Iron Age in Europe, fundamental social principles such as age, gender, status, and kinship were thought to have played an important role in the social structure of Late Hallstatt and Early Latène societies. In order to address the question of kinship relations represented in the Iron Age “princely burials” that are characterized by their rich material culture, we carried out genetic analysis of individuals associated with the Late Hallstatt culture from Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Bone specimens of thirty-eight skeletal remains were collected from five sites including Asperg Grafenbühl, Mühlacker Heidenwäldle, Hirschlanden, Ludwigsburg, and Schodeingen. Specimens were subjected to DNA extraction and amplification under strict criteria for ancient DNA analysis. We successfully obtained mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region sequences from seventeen individuals that showed different haplotypes, which were assigned to nine haplogroups including haplogroups H, I, K, U5, U7, W, and X2b. Despite the lack of information from nuclear DNA to infer familial relations, information from the mtDNA suggests an intriguing genetic composition of the Late Hallstatt burials. In particular, twelve distinct haplotypes from Asperg Grafenbühl suggest a heterogeneous composition of maternal lineages represented in the “princely burials”. The results from this study provide clues to the social structure reflected in the burial patterns of the Late Hallstatt culture and implications on the genetic landscape during the Iron Age in Europe.

This study was supported by the Graduate School "Human Development in Landscapes" of Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel.

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