Washington, Nov 18 : Scientists have used DNA analysis to confirm that a 4,600 year old grave found in Germany, contains the world's earliest nuclear family.
The grave was found in Germany in 2005, among many other graves that contained groups of adults and children buried facing each other, which is an unusual practice in Neolithic culture.
One of the graves was found to contain a female, a male and two children.
Using DNA analysis, researchers established that the group consisted of a mother, father and their two sons aged 8-9 and 4-5 years, which is the oldest molecular genetic evidence of a nuclear family in the world so far.
According to lead researcher Dr Wolfgang Haak of the University of Adelaide, "By establishing the genetic links between the two adults and two children buried together in one grave, we have established the presence of the classic nuclear family in a prehistoric context in Central Europe - to our knowledge the oldest authentic molecular genetic evidence so far."
"Their unity in death suggests a unity in life. However, this does not establish the elemental family to be a universal model or the most ancient institution of human communities," he added.
The burials, discovered and excavated at Eulau, Saxony-Anhalt, were also unusual for the great care taken in the treatment of the dead.
The remains of thirteen individuals were found in total, all of whom had been interned simultaneously.
Intriguingly, the arrangement of the dead seemed to mirror their relations in life. Several pairs of individuals were buried face-to-face with arms and hands interlinked in many cases.
All the burials contained children ranging from newborns up to 10 years of age and adults of around 30 years or older. Interestingly, there were no adolescents or young adults.
Many showed injuries that indicated they were the victims of a violent raid.
One female was found to have a stone projectile point embedded in one of her vertebra and another had skull fractures. Several bodies also had defence injuries to the forearms and hands.
The researchers were also able to shed light on their social organisation using strontium isotope analysis.
According to Dr Alistair Pike, Head of Archaeology at the University of Bristol and co-Director of the project, "The strontium analysis showed that the females spent their childhood in a different region from the males and children. This is an indication of exogamy (marrying out) and patrilocality (the females moving to the location of the males)."
"Such traditions would have been important to avoid inbreeding and to forge kinship networks with other communities," Pike added.