The Science of Kinship in Bronze Age Greece

Early in this semester we learned about kinship and how to map out relationships between individuals. In terms of affinal kinship, individuals are connected by substance, or blood. Modern science and technology can help us determine such relationships via DNA testing. A couple of years ago a team lead by John Prag re-investigated archaeological finds at the Bronze Age Greek site of Mycenae. Years prior to this study Prag and his partner Richard Neave had examined the remains of multiple individuals and were able to determine that one man and one woman were related based on face shape. When Prag returned with his team in 2008, he was able to extract DNA samples from the two individuals and found out that they were actually in the consanguineal relationship of brother and sister. The DNA from both individuals showed that they were of the same haplo group, essentially meaning that they had a very close common ancestor. The individual’s maternal lineage was traced, for scientists studied their maternal (mitochondrial) DNA, or mtDNA. This field of anthropology, bioarchaeology, is incredibly useful in trying to determine relationships of figures that lived thousands of years ago. Even in modern times, biological and forensic anthropology can be used to determine lineal descent through methods such as blood testing and DNA matching.

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