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Volume 582 Issue 7812, 18 June 2020

Family ties

The cover shows sunlight piercing Newgrange passage tomb in County Meath, Ireland, following the winter solstice. In this week’s issue, Daniel Bradley and his co-workers present a genomic exploration of remains from this and other megalithic sites that sheds fresh light on social organization in the country more than 5,000 years ago. Sampling the whole genomes of 44 individuals, the researchers discovered that the high-status remains of an adult male in the Newgrange tomb represented the offspring of an incestuous liaison between either a parent and child or a brother and sister. They also found distant relatives of this man at two other major sites. Broader dietary and genetic differences were seen between passage-tomb burials and the other genomes sampled, indicating that they were probably part of ruling class, whose leaders engaged in dynastic incest to keep themselves distinct from the rest of the population.

Cover image: Ken Williams/shadowsandstone.com

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