Analysis of ancient mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has been used to establish migration and population patterns for American indigenous cultures during the time before Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Genetics has used more detailed DNA analysis of individuals from Arequipa region to identify the family relationships and burial traditions of ancient Peru.
The social unit (ayllu) of Native South Americans is thought to be based on kin relationships. The establishment of ayllu-based communities is also associated with funereal monuments (chullpas) which are thought to be important social sites not only because of their religious importance but because they housed the venerated ayllu's ancestors. Ancestor worship and a belief in a common ancestor, central to the ayllu, still exists in the traditions of the Q'ero community.
Researchers from University of Warsaw, in collaboration with Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria, used DNA analysis to reconstruct the family trees of individuals buried in six chullpas near the Coropuna volcano is southern Peru. Despite prior looting, the unique nature of this site, 4000m up the Cora Cora mountain, allowed an extraordinary preservation of human remains and of DNA within both teeth and bone.
mtDNA analysis showed that the groups were of Andean origin and indicated a 500 year continuity, up to modern Andeans, without any major impact by European colonisation.
The social structure of an aylla was established using Y (male) chromosome and autosomal microsatellites analysis, in conjunction with the mtDNA. Family connections were clearly strongest within each chullpa, since individuals buried in the same chullpa were more closely related than those buried in different chullpas, and all males buried together shared identical Y chromosome profiles. In two of the chullpas several generations of related males wer
|Contact: Dr. Hilary Glover|