Researchers claim to have found new information about the ancient society that once lived in the Chaco Canyon. And according to them, this was once ruled by a matrilineal dynasty.
Back in the 1890s, researchers carried out excavations in the Chaco Canyon, in New Mexico. And at the time, they detected the Pueblo Bonito. This is a burial crypt. It is the 33rd room in a 650-rooms pueblo village. The structures were dated as being built in between 800 to 1130.
Puerto Bonito contained some 14 burial clusters. And research established the following. All of them were venerated individuals. This was made evident by their exceptional treatment in the afterlife. And they are also the source of the latest matrilineal dynasty theory.
A study on the matter was led by Douglas Kennett. He is the head and professor of anthropology at the Pennsylvania State University in State College. Research results on the matter were released earlier this week.
They were published in the Nature Communications journal. Available online since February 21, the paper was titled as follows. “Archaeogenomic evidence reveals prehistoric matrilineal dynasty”.
The Chaco Canyon society raised many questions. And one of them targeted their organization. Some considered it to be an egalitarian community. Others believed it to have been leaderless. At the same time, archeologists argue that it may have been a hierarchical state-level society.
This latest study claims that it was a matrilineal dynasty. How did it reach this conclusion? Based on a DNA analysis of the Pueblo Bonita burials. The burial crypt houses both material goods and human remains.
And perhaps even more importantly, it is the only burial chamber. This is a fact in itself, given the total number or 650-room great houses. Most Chacoans burials were discovered outside of the settlement.
Pueblo Bonita human remain samples were taken. And then they were tested using the latest DNA analysis. This showed that the individuals all shared some common features. And one of them is quite important. All the remains presented the same mitochondrial genome sequence. These are genes which can only be inherited from the mother.
This is a very relevant fact. Previous theories considered that Pueblo Bonito may be holding the remains of the ancient society’s leaders. If proven true, this would mean that the Chaco Canyon was led by a matrilineal dynasty.
The Pueblo Bonito’s first burial revealed itself to be a man. He presented the as yet greatest material display ever found in a burial site in the American Southwest. According to the latest research, this man and his successors were part of a ruling maternal lineage.
DNA sequencing revealed a number of relation pairs. For example, it revealed a mother-daughter one. And also a grandmother-grandson pair, amongst others. Before carrying out the DNA tests, the scientists used radiocarbon dating. As such, they were able to order the remains from oldest to youngest.
This is also the first study to claim the following. Pueblo Bonito may have been controlled by a single kinship group. They may have ruled for over 300 years. And the heir may have been determined according to the maternal line.
According to Steve Plog, this is an important element. It is the “best evidence” of any social hierarchy found in the ancient Southwest. Plog is an Archeology Professor at the University of Virginia and part of the study.
The research paper is expected to cause quite a stir. Especially as it is using biological data in order to determine sociological structures. Some may agree with it, as the paper offers very convincing and relevant arguments.
But at the same time, others will most likely contest it. For example, some researchers pointed out the following. The matrilineal lineage is quite clear. But it may be representative of perhaps only one elite family and not the society as a whole. As such, they are asking for additional DNA samples from the Pueblo Bonito clusters.
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