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The Grave Of A Pair Of Newborns Unearthed Under A Mammoth Bone Lid May Be The Oldest Known Representation Of Twins In The World.

Babies buried under mammoth bone lid are oldest known identical twins

A third child burial was found nearby.

The double burial of the twin babies was unearthed in Krems am Wachtberg, Austria. (Image credit: OREA ÖAW) An ancient grave in Austria may represent the oldest twin burial on record, according to a new study.

The 31,000-year-old burial dates back to the Upper Paleolithic (a period that lasted 40,000 to 10,000 years ago), also known as the Old Stone Age. One of the babies died shortly after birth, while her twin brother lived about 50 days, or just over 7 weeks, according to analyzes of both babies.

A third baby, 3 months old, buried in a burial about 1.5 meters (5 feet) away is likely his cousin, according to the research, published online Nov. 6 in the journal Communications Biology.

Researchers found the oval-shaped burial of the twins at the Krems-Wachtberg archaeological site on the bank of the Danube River near the city center of Krems in 2005. The twins’ remains were covered with o chre, a pigment red that is often used in ancient burials around the world. The double burial also contained 53 beads made of mammoth ivory that were probably once strung on a necklace, and a pierced fox incisor and three pierced mollusks, which were possibly on the neck. pendants, the researchers said. A mammoth shoulder blade placed over the burial protected the small bodies buried below for millennia.

The other baby’s nearby burial also contained ocher, as well as a 3-inch-long (8 centimeters) mammoth ivory pin, which may have tied a leather garment at the time of burial, the rest archers said.

The find made headlines shortly after its discovery, and researchers even created a replica of the twins’ burial, which was displayed at the Natural History Museum in Vienna in 2013. Scientists still had a lot to learn about the ancient burial. So in the new project, an interdisciplinary group of researchers came together to decipher the relationship between these three babies and determine their sex and age at the time of death.

The study is the first on record to use ancient DNA to confirm twins in the archaeological record, the researchers said. And not just any twins, but identical twins.

This is the “earliest evidence of a twin birth,” said study lead researcher Ron Pinhаsі, an associate professor in the Department of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Vienna. n a statement (translated from German with Google Translаte). Researchers don’t know how common twin births were during the Upper Paleolithic (the rate fluctuates by region and time), but today, twins (both identical and fraternal) occur in about one in every 85 births. , while identical twins are born in approximately one in 250 births.

“Discovering a Paleolithic multiple burial is a specialty in itself,” said study lead researcher Maria Teschler-Nicola, a biologist at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. in the statement. “The fact that enough ancient and high-quality DNA could be extracted from the skeletal remains of the fragile child for a genome analysis exceeded all our expectations and can be compared to a ket lottery.” A genetic analysis of the third baby revealed that he was a third-degree male relative, probably a cousin, the researchers found.

To determine at what age the babies died, the researchers looked at each baby’s upper second incisor. The team paid special attention to the so-called “newborn line,” a dark line in tooth enamel that separates enamel formed prenatally from enamel formed after birth, Teschler-Nicola said. skeletal development of children, she suggested that the twins were full or nearly full-term babies. It seems that the boys’ hunter-gatherer group buried the first twin and then reopened the grave when they buried their brother.

This find confirms the cultural-historical practice of reopening a tomb for the purpose of reburial, which has never before been documented in a Paleolithic burial, the researchers said.

The team also analyzed chemical elements, including isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and barium, in tooth enamel, revealing that each of the twins was breastfed. Although the twins’ cousin survived three months, “stress lines” on his teeth suggest he had difficulty feeding, perhaps because his mother had a painful breast infection known as breast infection. Statitis, or maybe because he didn’t survive the birth.

Exactly why these babies died is unknown, but the deaths of these twins and their cousin were likely painful events for this group of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, who camped and buried their babies next to the Danube. so long ago. “The babies were obviously of particular importance to the group and very respected and esteemed,” Teschler-Nicola told Live Science. The extraordinary burials “seem to imply that the babies’ deaths were a great loss to the community and its survival.”