Understanding Early Bronze Age social structure through mortuary remains: A pilot aDNA study from Titriş Höyük, southeastern Turkey



This report describes a pilot study examining aDNA from a skeletal population excavated in the 1990s at the late Early Bronze Age (EBA, c. 2300-2100 BC) urban settlement of Titriş Höyük in southeastern Turkey. Typically, late EBA burials at Titriş Höyük consisted of periodically reused underground family crypts contained within houses. However, one unique set of remains dated to the latest phase of the late EBA occupation at the site departed from this burial pattern entirely. It consisted of an above ground mortuary installation (B98.87) displaying the skulls and post-cranial bones of 19 individuals, most exhibiting a variety of fatal traumas. In this article, we compare the mtDNA sequences of these individuals with those buried in contemporary traditional late EBA intramural crypts. After successful extraction and amplification of ancient DNA molecules during a double blind study of 13 skeletons selected for the pilot study, our team was able to compare the genetic relatedness of individuals displayed in B98.87 to individuals buried elsewhere on the site. Based on archaeological evidence alone, earlier we had suggested that the occupants of B98.87 were perhaps outsiders, possibly soldiers vanquished in hostilities taking place shortly before the abandonment of the city at the end of the late EBA. However, our pilot study showed no clear genetic difference between the population of B98.87 and the broader population of the late EBA city, contrary to our expectations. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.