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First Farmers Were Also Inbred
Science Magazine ^ | 6-19-2013 | Michael Balter

Posted on 06/21/2013 7:02:40 AM PDT by Renfield

Humans have been mating with their relatives for at least 10,000 years. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds the earliest known evidence of deliberate inbreeding—including missing teeth—among farmers who lived in what is today southern Jordan. Although inbreeding over long periods can lead to a rise in genetic defects, the team concludes that it may have helped prehistoric peoples make the transition from hunting and gathering to village life.

Researchers agree that the best evidence for family ties is DNA. For example, ancient DNA from a group of Neandertal skeletons found in a Spanish cave showed that they belonged to the same extended family. But DNA often preserves poorly, especially at early farming sites from the so-called Neolithic period in the Near East where high temperatures and burials under house floors or in shallow graves easily degrade the genetic material. So some researchers have searched for signs of family relationships in the skeletons themselves, looking for rare anomalies that might suggest shared genetic heritage.

A team led by Kurt Alt, an anthropologist at the University of Mainz in Germany, examined the skeletons of individuals buried at the Neolithic site of Basta, in southern Jordan. Between about 9500 and 9000 years ago, up to 1000 early farmers lived there; the site was excavated in the 1980s and 1990s by an international team of archaeologists. At least 56 skeletons were found in one area, perhaps a graveyard.

In earlier research, Alt had identified more than 100 skeletal traits that can be used to determine family ties, most of which concern features of the teeth and jaws. Although inbreeding with very close relatives—such as between brothers and sisters, parents and children, or even cousins—boosts the incidence of genetic disease, mating with even more distant family members can increase the prevalence of traits that indicate family relationships. So his team set about looking at the upper jaws, or maxillae, of the Basta skeletons, which were well preserved in 28 individuals.

The search paid off: Ten skeletons, or about 36%, had a rare genetic anomaly called bilateral maxillary lateral incisor agenesis (MLIA), in which the outer incisors on both sides of the upper jaw are missing. (A normal mouth has four incisors on each jaw, two central ones and two outer or lateral ones.) MLIA occurred in both adult men and women, and an additional four children had very small incisors, which dental experts attribute to the same genetic defect that causes MLIA. This very high incidence of the defect is strong evidence for inbreeding among the Basta population, the team reports this month in PLOS ONE. The normal incidence of MLIA among today's populations rarely exceeds 4%.

The one known case that comes at all close to that of Basta, according to the team's literature search, is that of a small village in Switzerland where nearly 80% of the marriages were to family members over the past 230 years. In that village, 21% of the inhabitants had MLIA, and everyone with the genetic defect could trace their ancestry back to one couple that lived in the early 18th century.

The excavations at Basta suggested that the community was in regular contact with other Neolithic villages, making it unlikely that inbreeding was a necessity for these early farmers. Archaeologists found considerable evidence of trade and exchange with other sites, including raw materials such as turquoise and obsidian and finished artifacts such as mother-of-pearl amulets, stone rings, and stone tools similar to those found elsewhere in southern Jordan. Indeed, some archaeologists consider Basta to have been a center for stone tool manufacture and trade, due to the large number of tools found there.

The team also rejects the possibility that the Basta people were so full of genetic defects that others in nearby villages shunned them as mates. The missing incisors do not cause a major change in appearance because the gaps between the teeth close during development, and the team found no additional anomalies among the skeletons, nor any evidence that the individuals with MLIA were treated or buried differently. Alt adds that the data don't necessarily suggest incest, mating with very close family members such as parents or siblings.

Taken together, the team writes in its report, the findings strongly suggest that inbreeding was a deliberate choice at Basta, "the earliest evidence for a self-imposed exclusive mating system." The researchers point to possible signs of inbreeding, such as unusual suture patterns on skulls, at other Neolithic sites of similar age, such as the famous village of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, although no other site presents such a clear-cut case as Basta. If inbreeding was common during the early Neolithic, the team asserts, family ties could have been the cement that held at least some early farming communities together.

The findings are of "real significance" in understanding the social changes that took place as hunter-gatherers settled down and became farmers, says Trevor Watkins, an expert in Near East prehistory at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. They "delineate for the first time something of the nature of the close genetic relationships between members of a single, permanent community."

But Laurent Excoffier, a population geneticist at the University of Bern, says that the team has not entirely ruled out alternative explanations to deliberate inbreeding, such as so-called "founder effects"—in which a small group of people harbor a genetic trait that is retained at high numbers in the population, over many generations, due only to chance. The only way to distinguish these alternatives, Excoffier says, is by looking at the DNA.


TOPICS: Health/Medicine; History; Science
KEYWORDS: agriculture; animalhusbandry; archaeology; godsgravesglyphs; helixmakemineadouble; inbreeding

Family ties that bind? A high percentage of farmers at 9500-year-old Basta in Jordan shared a genetic defect in which two incisors (red numbers) were missing.

Credit: Archive of the Basta Joint Archeological Project; (inset) J. Kranzbhler/SIGN Project

1 posted on 06/21/2013 7:02:40 AM PDT by Renfield
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To: SunkenCiv

Ping


2 posted on 06/21/2013 7:02:59 AM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield

Incestors instead of ancestors!


3 posted on 06/21/2013 7:07:13 AM PDT by ruesrose (The Anchor Holds)
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To: Renfield

Adam and Eve started it all. However, they were perfect until sin entered through disobedience. It’s been downhill ever since.


4 posted on 06/21/2013 7:07:29 AM PDT by stars & stripes forever ((Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord!))
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To: Renfield

5 posted on 06/21/2013 7:10:22 AM PDT by JoeProBono (Mille vocibus imago valet;-{)
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To: Renfield

In before the picture of the Appalachian inbreds.


6 posted on 06/21/2013 7:11:03 AM PDT by Cletus.D.Yokel (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Alteration: The acronym explains the science.)
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To: Renfield

What in the world does the word also in the title imply?


7 posted on 06/21/2013 7:18:13 AM PDT by csmusaret (Will remove Obama-Biden bumperstickers for $10)
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To: csmusaret

I think you should direct that question to the editors of Science Magazine.


8 posted on 06/21/2013 7:19:30 AM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield; martin_fierro

Genetic ping...


9 posted on 06/21/2013 7:25:59 AM PDT by Pharmboy (Democrats lie because they must.)
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To: csmusaret
What in the world does the word also in the title imply?


10 posted on 06/21/2013 7:26:02 AM PDT by schm0e ("we are in the midst of a coup.")
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To: Renfield

Were the ancient farmers all Appalachian?


11 posted on 06/21/2013 7:40:46 AM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults)
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To: Renfield

so....once we had inbred ourselves to the point we became too stupid to catch a rabbit, we took up farming?


12 posted on 06/21/2013 7:46:32 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: Renfield

Sure my sister has a blouse full of goodies and a great tail but it is just wrong


13 posted on 06/21/2013 7:54:38 AM PDT by al baby (Hi Mom)
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To: csmusaret
Good question; I assumed that it referred to the fact that they were the first farmers and that they were also inbred. Awkward, at best.
14 posted on 06/21/2013 8:00:15 AM PDT by Pharmboy (Democrats lie because they must.)
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To: Renfield

There have been other periods when the only mating prospects in some areas were relatives, such as following the great plague of the early middle ages where 35%+ of the population was decimated.


15 posted on 06/21/2013 8:56:12 AM PDT by RJS1950 (The democrats are the "enemies foreign and domestic" cited in the federal oath)
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To: Renfield

“Lucy” (found in Kenya, BTW), was somebody’s composite girlfriend.


16 posted on 06/21/2013 9:23:28 AM PDT by Migraine (Diversity is great -- until it happens to YOU...)
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To: Renfield

So what were some Swiss doing in southern Jordan 9500 years ago? If they went there to see Petra, those ruins are older than we thought.


17 posted on 06/21/2013 9:42:31 AM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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To: Renfield

Were the ancient farmers all Appalachian?


18 posted on 06/21/2013 9:53:08 AM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults)
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To: Renfield

Hmmm. This was the pre-islam middle east area. THe religion may have changed but the inbreeding stays the same.


19 posted on 06/21/2013 10:09:33 AM PDT by 43north (BHO: 50% black, 50% white, 100% RED)
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To: Renfield; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks Renfield.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


20 posted on 06/21/2013 9:23:48 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (McCain or Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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To: Renfield; SunkenCiv

Inbread Cat does not understand the hubub. Bub.

21 posted on 06/21/2013 9:57:43 PM PDT by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: martin_fierro

I note that the first case of inbreeding was in arab lands, Jordan...


22 posted on 06/22/2013 7:14:06 AM PDT by null and void (Republicans create the tools of oppression, and the democrats gleefully use them!)
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To: Renfield; SunkenCiv

When you think about the implications of farming vs. nomadic hunting/gathering it may be a logical outcome.

Farming means families are going to stay in one place together, probably for most of their lives. Not much choice of finding a mate from outside the immediate family group/clan/tribe.

Nomadic hunting groups however might well run into other families with the ensuing wider choice of mates.


23 posted on 06/22/2013 9:28:23 AM PDT by wildbill (You're just jealous because the Voices talk only to me.)
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To: wildbill

That’s less of a problem — the main problem is lower infant mortality leading to large family sizes; in my own tree a few generations back, one of three brothers who settled near here married into another large family; he had a niece who married one of his wife’s nephews, and from his other brother a nephew who married one of his wife’s nieces. At that time, given the lower overall population and sectarian isolations, it pretty much had to happen that way.


24 posted on 06/22/2013 2:07:42 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (McCain or Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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To: SunkenCiv

I looked at my family ancestry in Maine from 1626 on and they had enormous families. It was also not uncommon to marry cousins who lived at a distance.


25 posted on 06/23/2013 3:51:07 PM PDT by marsh2
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