Maternal Dynasty Rules Chaco Canyon Society
Feb 27, 2017 11:37 AM EST
A maternal dynasty passed on power only to those born from elite women in a mysterious civilization in the Americas, centered in New Mexico's Chaco Canyon society. DNA indicates that society was ruled by people with a common maternal lineage from 800 to 1130, according to Penn State archaeologist Douglas Kennett and colleagues.
DNA provides evidence that Chaco civilization started out with stratified social classes in a system that had staying power. Science News reports that Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the remains of nine people buried in Room 33 at Pueblo Bonito, the largest among more than a dozen of Chaco Canyon great houses, displays a common molecular arrangement, Kennett's team says.
That genetic link signals shared maternal ancestry for all nine individuals, since mitochondrial DNA gets passed from mothers to their children. Nuclear DNA recovered from six of the Pueblo Bonito skeletons identifies two of them as mother and daughter, and another pair as grandmother and grandson.
DNA is key to get more information
Jewelry and other goods placed in Room 33, one of Pueblo Bonito's 650 rooms, makes us think this chamber housed the dead from the top of Chaco society. The relationship between Chaco people and modern Pueblo populations is not clear. Native American groups living near Chaco Canyon these days, such as the Zuni, have been organized around matrilineal clans.
Chaco society remains barely understood, according to archaeologist Kerriann Marden of Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. For instance, five other skeletons in Room 33 gave no DNA and may not have belonged to the same female lineage as the nine individuals described by Kennett's team. ABC News reports Archaeological and DNA analyses have been used to determine the hereditary links within an elite lineage.
Without DNA from individuals buried in other rooms at Pueblo Bonito and in other areas of Chaco Canyon, it's impossible to say if those placed in Room 33 belonged to a unique mitochondrial DNA lineage, much less a female-based political dynasty, according to Marden.