The two-year-old boy was buried 6,200 years ago, and now scientists know who he was

The two-year-old boy was buried 6,200 years ago, and now scientists know who he was

For more than 6,000 years, a family secret has been buried in an ancient rubbish heap in Ertboll, Denmark.

Now a group of DNA researchers has revealed that the two Stone Age people found here have a close link: they are father and son.

– It's wonderful and epoch-making that after more than 6,000 years, you can suddenly connect people to each other and see that they are father and son. It's absolutely crazy that this could be done at all, says Bjarne Henning Nielsen.

He is an archaeologist, head of research at the Vestimmerlands Museum and co-author of the new study revealing the kinship between the two Stone Age peoples.

They are found in what is called the kitchen sink. According to the report, there is a pile of waste near a Stone Age settlement where remains of meals and tools were found The Great Norwegian Encyclopedia.

The man from the garbage dump

The Father of the Waste Heap was already famous among Stone Age archaeologists.

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He goes by the name Ertebøllemannen. Archaeologists from the National Museum in Copenhagen discovered his almost complete skeleton and the bones of his son in the 1890s.

The researchers in the study point out that Ertbolman was the first human skeleton found in Denmark, and he was undoubtedly a hunter-gatherer.

– This discovery helped change our entire understanding of the Stone Age, and the rubbish pile at Ertboll ended up naming an entirely new global culture, says Louise Villadsen.

She is an archaeologist and general manager at Stenaldercenter Ertebølle in North Jutland.

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– amazing

The bully pea culture lasted from 5400 to 4000 BC. It extended across southern Scandinavia and northern Germany. Pea Thug, his son, and the others of the culture were hunters and gatherers. They were skilled fishermen and lived primarily on sea food.

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– There are not many graves from the Ertbol culture, and it may be difficult to imagine life 6,000 years ago. But now we suddenly have two skeletons that are more vital to us, says Louise Villadsen.

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– It's not just that the bones of a man and some children are found in the garbage heap. It's father and son. She says it's absolutely wonderful.

Archaeologists from the National Museum in Copenhagen during excavations at Ertboll Hill in 1895. (Photo courtesy of the National Museum)

Evidence of past family life

The new discovery is just a small piece in a larger research project. The project resulted in four studies in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

The researchers concluded that Danes today are not related to the Ertbulmannen people or other early Danish Stone Age inhabitants. Instead, they largely stutter From a people from the steppes surrounding present-day Russia and Ukraine Who came wandering about 5,000 years ago.

– One fascinating side effect, are the words used by archaeologist Felix Rede from Aarhus University when the family relationship between the two ancient peoples was revealed.

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When we can find people who are related to each other, we can also begin to understand the biological and cultural bases of how families and societies were organized in the past, says Reid.

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He is a professor in the Department of Archeology and Cultural Heritage Studies and was not involved in the new study.

We may tend to project our own relationships into time, but there are many other family types around the world, and it can be difficult to know which type dominated at which time. But DNA studies can help us here.

He asserts that it is too early to draw far-reaching conclusions about family life in Ertebul's era based on a single discovery of father and son.

But abroad, several recent studies of Stone Age mass graves (eg here And hereReed points out that DNA analyzes could provide a new window into studying the organization of family life in the past.

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DNA Researcher: We're pretty sure

In addition to Ertbolmannen and his son, 98 other ancient skeletons from Denmark are included in the new study. Despite thousands of years of decomposing skeletons and DNA, scientists are clear:

-We are absolutely sure that it is father and son. We have mapped large parts of their genetic material, so we can say that very precisely, says Morten Allentoft.

He is a professor at Curtin University in Australia and the first author of the study, which turns out to be a father and son.

– This family connection is just a small side note in our larger study, but it is an interesting story, because the Pea Man is one of our most famous ancient discoveries and has given his name to the entire pea culture.

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Did they die at the same time?

The study cannot reveal whether the father and son were buried at the same time.

The little boy's bones were found a meter away from his father's skeleton in an old rubbish heap.

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– At that time, archaeological excavations were not taking place as they are today. It was archaeologists from the National Museum who were behind the excavation of Ertbol Hill, but the excavation itself was carried out by local workers. They did not have the same professional ability to understand and notice what they found, says Louise Villadsen.

Among archaeologists of the time, the fact that the Ertbol people were buried in a refuse heap was seen as a sign that the Ertbol culture may not have cared much for the dead.

– It was primitive for the dead to be thrown on the waste heap among all kinds of rubbish. But this perception has changed a lot since the 1890s. Villadsen says there may have been rituals associated with the dead that are difficult to decipher today.

The people of Ertebølle will be close to the dead

The bully man was laid on his back with his legs close together and his arms at his side. It was probably wrapped in skin or bark and buried a short distance away in the waste pile, Villadsen says.

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– There was a thin layer of ash on top of it with burnt oyster shells. In Ertbol culture, people would cook shellfish over a fire and eat them. She explains that they ate with the dead on the rubbish pile or poured soup on them.

– In every possible way, it was important for people in Ertbol culture to have the dead near them where they lived. She adds that we can also find examples of the dead being buried inside or on top of homes.

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The Ertboll people are the last hunter-gatherers of Denmark. They live primarily on the coast, streams and rivers. There they lived by hunting, fishing, and from the nuts, berries, and herbs they gathered in the forest.

The last in untouched nature

– They were the last people to live in a nature almost untouched by human hands in Denmark. After the Ertbol people, farmers came and changed the landscape and nature, says Villadsen.

– The Ertbol people specialized in fishing, and they seem to have lived a good life with enough food.

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– They were dark-skinned and blue-eyed, but they were not as tall as us. But you can see from her bones that she was stocky and strong, she was built to live in nature.

According to the new study The Ertebølle people have almost completely disappeared When a wave of farmers immigrated to Denmark from the south.

The bones of Ertebøllemannen and his son belong to the National Museum of Denmark and are in the museum's collection of ancient skeletons at the Panum Institute in Copenhagen.

© Videnskab.dk. Translated by Trine Andreasen for forskning.no. is reading Original status on videnskab.dk here.

(This issue It was first published in Forskning.no).

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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