A recent study published in Science Advances, has used ancient DNA to uncover the origins of workers who were buried more than 500 years ago within the Inca Empire, specifically at the site of Machu Picchu.
Led by Jason Nesbitt, an associate professor of archaeology at Tulane University School of Liberal Arts, the researchers conducted genetic testing on individuals interred at Machu Picchu to gain deeper insights into the lives and identities of its inhabitants.
Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Cusco region of Peru once served as a royal estate for the Inca Empire. Machu Picchu also hosted elite members of Inca society and their attendants and workers, many of whom resided within the estate throughout the year.
Contrary to assumptions, this study, bolstered by DNA evidence, has finally confirmed the diverse backgrounds of these residents. As Nesbitt puts it, the findings provide crucial insights into the lives of the “retainer population” and are a window into the world of lower-status individuals rather than just focusing on elites and royalty.
The DNA analysis conducted in this study operates similarly to contemporary genetic ancestry kits. By comparing the DNA of 34 individuals buried at Machu Picchu with that of people from various regions within the Inca Empire and some modern genomes from South America, the researchers aimed to determine the level of genetic relatedness among them.
The results of the DNA analysis unveiled that these individuals hailed from different parts of the Inca Empire, with some originating from as far as Amazonia. Interestingly, there was minimal shared DNA among them, suggesting that they were brought to Machu Picchu individually, rather than being part of familial or community groups. This finding provides valuable insights into the diverse origins of the people who once inhabited this extraordinary site.
According to Nesbitt: “Now, of course, genetics doesn’t translate into ethnicity or anything like that,” said Nesbitt of the results, “but that shows that they have distinct origins within different parts of the Inca Empire. The study does really reinforce a lot of other types of research that have been done at Machu Picchu and other Inca sites.”
The DNA analysis supports historical documentation and archaeological studies of the artifacts found associated with the burials.
This study is part of a larger movement in archaeology to combine traditional archaeological techniques with new technologies and scientific analyses. This combination of fields leads to a more complete understanding of the discoveries made.
Header Image Credit : Shutterstock
Maya tomb with funerary offerings found during hotel construction
A tomb with funerary offerings has been uncovered during the construction of the Tren Maya Hotel, in Palenque, Mexico.
Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) conducted rescue excavations following the discovery, revealing skeletal remains associated with the Maya city of Palenque.
Palenque, also known as Lakamha in the Itza Language (meaning “Flat-Place-River”), is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas.
The city dates from 226 BC to AD 799, with most of the major construction works representing a rebuilding effort in response to attacks by the city of Calakmul and its client states in AD 599 and AD 611.
The population declined during the 8th century AD, instead becoming an agricultural population that led to the abandonment of the city zone. By 1520 following the Spanish conquest, contemporary Spanish accounts record the entire region being sparsely populated.
Excavations uncovered a stone lined funerary space sealed with limestone slabs, in which the researchers found the remains of a high-status individual who likely lived in the periphery of Palenque in a small settlement.
The burial is located at a depth of four metres, and also contained ceramic vessels and beads deposited as funerary offerings.
“The individual was placed face up with his legs extended and his head facing north,” said Diego Prieto Hernández from INAH.
The discovery was announced in a press conference reporting on the progress of the Program for the Improvement of Archaeological Zones (Promeza) in Palenque, Moral-Reforma and El Tigre, the three heritage sites that are served within Section 1 of the Mayan Train Project.
Header Image Credit : INAH
Archaeologists unearth possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle
Archaeologists from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust may have discovered the possible birthplace of King Henry VII at Pembroke Castle in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Pembroke Castle was founded during the 11th century by Roger de Montgomerie, the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury.
In 1452, Jasper Tudor was presented both the castle and the earldom by his half-brother, King Henry VI. In 1457, Henry VII was born at the castle, the only child of Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond.
Following Edward IV’s ascension to the throne in 1471, Henry VII endured 14 years of exile in Brittany. He eventually claimed the throne after his forces, with backing from France, Scotland, and Wales, emerged victorious over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, marking the climax of the Wars of the Roses.
Henry VII’s reign is credited with many administrative, economic, and tax reforms, having ruled for nearly 24 years until his death in 1509 at the age of 52. Henry VII was succeed by his second son, Henry, Duke of York, who ascended to the crown as Henry VIII.
Historians have long assumed that a 13th century tower on the outer ward (known today as Henry VII Tower) was the birth place of Henry VII. However, a recent study by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust has uncovered evidence of a late-medieval winged hall-house, broadly dating to the 15th century.
The walls of the structure extend to around 25 metres, with comparisons being drawn to medieval buildings found in England and East Wales, such as Penallt Mansion in Kidwelly. Historically, Pembroke Castle was situated in the English-speaking portion of Pembrokeshire, often referred to as “Little England beyond Wales.”
Speaking to the Western Telegraph, Neil Ludlow, a consultant to Pembroke Castle, said: “All our indications are pointing to a late-medieval building which was clearly of high status within Pembrokeshire, and it looks as if it was at least two-storeys, which possibly makes it a better candidate for the birthplace of a king rather that the tower that currently bears his name.”
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