Power may have passed via women in ancient Chaco Canyon society

A maternal dynasty ruled one of the earliest and most mysterious civilizations in the Americas, centered in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, for more than three centuries, researchers say.

DNA extracted from the bones of individuals buried inside a massive Chaco stone pueblo or great house, along with new radiocarbon dates for interred bones, indicate that royal status ran through a particular maternal lineage from 800 to 1130, say Penn State archaeologist Douglas Kennett and colleagues. Chaco society flourished in what’s now the U.S. Southwest during that stretch (SN Online: 3/17/11). Recovered DNA provides the first direct evidence that Chaco civilization started out with stratified social classes in a system that had surprising staying power, the scientists conclude February 21 in Nature Communications.

Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the remains of nine people buried in Room 33 at…

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