3000 Year-Old Caveman Relatives

caveman and Uwe

Every family has its skeletons in the cave, though, so Manfred Hucht-hausen, 58, a teacher, and 48-year-old surveyor Uwe Lange remained in celebratory mood. Thanks to DNA testing of remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age bones, they can claim to have the longest proven family tree in the world. “I can trace my family back by name to 1550,” Mr Lange said. “Now I can go back 120 generations.”

Thanks to DNA testing of remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age bones, they can claim to have the longest proven family tree in the world. “I can trace my family back by name to 1550,” Mr Lange said. “Now I can go back 120 generations.”

The good news for two villagers in the Söse valley of Germany yesterday was that they have discovered their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents — give or take a generation or two.

The bad news is that their long-lost ancestors may have grilled and eaten other members of their clan.

Mr Lange comes from the village of Nienstedt, in Lower Saxony, in the foothills of the Harz mountain range. “We used to play in these caves as kids. If I’d known that there were 3,000-year-old relatives buried there I wouldn’t have set foot in the place.”

The cave, the Lichtensteinhöhle, is made up of five interlocked natural chambers. It stayed hidden from view until 1980 and was not researched properly until 1993. The archaeologist Stefan Flindt found 40 skeletons along with what appeared to be cult objects. It was a mystery: Bronze Age man was usually buried in a field. Different theories were considered. Perhaps some of the bodies had been offered as human sacrifice, or one generation had been eaten by another.

Scientists at the University of Göttingen found that the bones had been protected by a thick layer of calcium: water dripping through the roof of the limestone cave had helped to create a sheath around the skeletons.

The analysis showed that all the bones were from the same family and the scientists speculated that it was a living area and a ceremonial burial place.

About 300 locals agreed to giving saliva swabs. Two of the cave family had a very rare genetic pattern – and a match was found.

The skulls have been reconstructed using three-dimensional computer techniques and placed in a museum. “It was really strange to look the man deep in the eyes,” Mr Lange said.

The bones of history

— The oldest human genetic material is thought to have been discovered at the Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg in 2001

— Fossilised faeces found in Oregon this year contained DNA dating back 14,000 years, placing people genetically similar to Native Americans in the area 1,000 years earlier than previously thought

— Australian scientists announced in 2001 that they had extracted DNA from the country’s oldest human skeleton, 60,000-year-old Mungo Man, who is distinct from the line that previously suggested all modern humans traced back to Africa

source: UK Times