Distinct ancestries for similar funerary practices? A GIS analysis comparing funerary, osteological and aDNA data from the Middle Neolithic necropolis Gurgy “Les Noisats” (Yonne, France)

Publication date: September 2016
Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 73
Author(s): Mélie Le Roy, Maïté Rivollat, Fanny Mendisco, Marie-Hélène Pemonge, Clément Coutelier, Christine Couture, Anne-marie Tillier, Stéphane Rottier, Marie-France Deguilloux
The French Paris Basin is well known as a complex cultural area of the Early/Middle Neolithic, particularly with respect to funerary practices. Gurgy “Les Noisats”, which is an important necropolis in the southern Paris basin, is a burial site (N = 128) associated with the first Neolithic groups established in that area. The understanding of the necropolis composition and organization is complicated given the substantial homogeneity of the site’s spatial organization in relation to a great diversity of characterized funerary traits. The unprecedented quantity of genetic (mitochondrial DNA), osteological (sex, age), and archaeological (funerary) data obtained for the Gurgy necropolis facilitates the search for potential correlations between cultural and biological (i.e. genetic and osteological) diversity at the site level. Despite the application of the powerful geographic information system, no correlation could be detected (i) between individual maternal lineages and specific bioarchaeological profiles (ii) or between maternal lineages and spatially identified bio-archaeological clusters. Therefore, analyses were performed to test for a correlation between the maternal ancestries of the individuals (i.e., hunter-gatherer/Central European farmer and Southern European farmer ancestries) and specific funerary traits. Again, the homogeneity of the funerary treatment of all of the individuals regardless of their potential maternal ancestries is striking. Taken together, our results regarding the way in which the Gurgy necropolis functioned provide strong evidence for the acculturation of all maternal ancestries groups, at least in terms of funerary practice. In addition, the demonstration of a recurrent association of adult men and immature individuals suggests a patrilocal system, which could be consistent with the detected acculturation of women who present a hunter-gatherer ancestry.

Graphical abstract