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Biotech Science

Oldest Nuclear Family Found Murdered In Germany 186

Pickens writes "The oldest genetically identifiable nuclear family met a violent death, according to analysis of remains from 4,600-year-old burials in Germany where the broken bones of these stone age people show they were killed in a struggle. Comparisons of DNA from one grave confirm it contained a mother, father, and their two children. 'We're really sure, based on hard biological facts not just supposing or assuming,' says Dr. Wolfgang Haak, from The Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. The stone-age people are thought to belong to a group known as the Corded Ware Culture, signified by their pots decorated with impressions from twisted cords. The children and adult males had the same type of strontium in their teeth — which was also found locally, but the nearest match to the women's teeth was at least 50km away, suggesting they had moved to the area. 'They were definitely murdered, there are big holes in their heads, fingers and wrists are broken,' says Dr. Alistair Pike from Bristol University. He noted that one victim even had the tip of a stone weapon embedded in a vertebra. 'You feel some kind of sympathy for them, it's a human thing, somebody must have really cared for them. ... We don't know how hard daily life was back there and if there was any space for love,' added Dr. Haak."
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Oldest Nuclear Family Found Murdered In Germany

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:22AM (#25814625)

    How the heck did they survive 4600 years? Was it from all the radiation?? Were they zombies? That is so awesome

    • by moteyalpha ( 1228680 ) * on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:34AM (#25814685) Homepage Journal
      I think they were killed for having WMD. They should not have been playing with nuclear material. Even though they were undead nuclear mutant zombies, they should get a decent burial and not be dug up by archaeologists and strangers ever few thousand years.
    • Re:How the heck.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by swid27 ( 869237 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @10:35AM (#25816977) Homepage
      ...on a "real science" note, these remains are one of the older human finds with enough intact DNA to reliably classify the maternal and paternal lineages. Usable mitochondrial DNA [] was found in 9 of the 13 individuals; there were 3 in mtDNA haplogroup K1b [], 2 in haplogroup X2 [], and one apiece in haplogroup U5b [], I [], H [], and K1a2. Three males in the same grave (an adult and two children) were found to be members of Y-DNA haplogroup R1a [].
  • Ouch (Score:5, Funny)

    by kitsunewarlock ( 971818 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:31AM (#25814663) Journal
    Did anyone else read this as "the woman's teeth were found 50 km away from the rest of her body"? That would be one hell of a sucker-punch!
    • That would be one hell of a sucker-punch!

      World record donkey punch [] perhaps?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) *

        D to the P, bro.

        I'm thinking she just left the teeth in a glass on her night stand.

        Seriously, I don't think it's surprising that some catastrophic or violent event caused the oldest "nuclear" family's remains to be found together in the same place.

        In face, under what other circumstances would you find the remains of a whole family in one place, except a cemetary, and then most of them would be fully grown?

    • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcvos ( 645701 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:39AM (#25815535)

      Did anyone else read this as "the woman's teeth were found 50 km away from the rest of her body"? That would be one hell of a sucker-punch!

      As if "Nuclear family" wasn't confusing enough.

      I thought a family that was famous for something nuclear-related in the '50s had recently been killed.

  • by phozz bare ( 720522 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:32AM (#25814671)

    The perpetrator of this monstrosity must be caught and brought to justice!

  • by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:04AM (#25814827) Homepage

    Love seems to be embedded in the very genetic fabric of mammals on some level. I'm sure there was space for love, in a way that made sense back then anyway.

    • by totally bogus dude ( 1040246 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:28AM (#25815475)

      Your off-topic mod sucks, and I hope someone fixes it. It's definitely an interest subject, but I doubt we'll ever really know for sure -- there's only so much you can deduce from fossils. That said, I imagine it would be very different to how we behave today.

      Consider that even in our very recent past, most marriages were arranged by the parents or even other members of the society -- anyone who tried to "follow their heart" would've been punished, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if such punishments were pretty extreme like being stoned to death. [] (Fair warning: that article is pretty unpleasant.)

      I also wonder how long we humans have had the kind of intelligence we have today. 4,000 years isn't a very long time by evolutionary standards, but perhaps intelligence evolves faster? Are the incredible achievements we now take for granted the result of some kind of improvement in our ability to harness the power of the brain, or just a result of slow incremental improvements to our societal organisation? Perhaps it's all down to improved teaching methods and a realisation of its importance?

      • by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @08:14AM (#25815701)

        At the time, 2500 B.C., we had already built advanced cultures in Egypt, Greece, and China. This is the era from which we get the great pyramids, the earliest oral legends about a great flood and god mythologies, and the first alphabet (not pictograms, but an actual letter-based form of writing).

        I don't think there was any difference in intelligence between them and us... not in such a short span of time.

        • by Emb3rz ( 1210286 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @09:44AM (#25816343) Homepage

          Haven't had time to do extensive research on it (just a few quick 'googles'), but it seems as though many people do put the event of the Noachian Flood at 2360BC or thereabouts.

          If that is the case then the violence shown toward this family was actually characteristic of the time they lived in. The Nephilim (known as Fellers of Men) were said to be extremely large and violent (and wouldn't you be, if you were the abomination-son of a demon?). It's also said that the Earth was filled with violence, so much so that God became saddened over his having created Humans who now acted so badly. This, in fact, motivated Him to wipe out the wicked people of that ancient world - doing so by a global deluge.

          • The flood of Noah is probably a borrowed mythology from the subcontinent of India. In their version it's about a man who was swept into the Persian Gulf by a natural event (not god).


            • The epic of Gilgamesh matches the Noachian flood story more closely and is a less unlikely candidate than postulating that ancient Isrealites somehow made contact with India.
              • Clueless, clueless. India was in close association with the Persian Empire (right next door to one another). The Israelites were captured by the Persians for several generations as slaves.

                Therefore the Israelites living in Persia heard the same stories that had been imported from nearby India that the Persians were hearing, and eventually included that story in their book. That's how cultures interact with one another.

                India story---->migrates to Persia--->overheard by Israelite slaves who take the

            • An interesting theory I saw on the History Channel was that the Garden of Eden and the Flood were tied to the same historical event: the flooding of the Persian Gulf at the end of the last ice age. The theory is that the Persian Gulf was a giant valley, until the on rushing water swept in over what is now the Straights of Hormuz and covered everything. The survivors started the tale about a lost "paradise" and a home that was destroyed by a giant flood. Everything else got filled in later.

          • by feronti ( 413011 )


            • by Emb3rz ( 1210286 )

              Yeah, I was being serious.

              I don't know if I should be perturbed that this got modded funny (some mods have their sarcasm detectors set surprisingly liberally!), or if I should feel bad for the people who were apparently unaware of what the Bible says about it, that these exact circumstances were written about.

              Guess I'll go with the latter. =\

      • These people were almost certainly biologically completely modern humans - 4,600 years ago is pretty much the same time as the great pyramids were being built in ancient Egypt; people had already been farming for something like 5000 years, and city-building for about 3000. In the middle east this time wouldn't have been stone-age, it would have been early Bronze age. Technology and culture may have moved on a lot, but it's only 150 generations or so...
      • I wouldnt imagine that people would be "much" different back then than they are today. There are still plenty of people who live in conditions that are not much different then they were 5,000 years ago. Its only in Western and developing nations where life is so "alien" compared to what it was before large groups of people started living together.

        You can find alot of good articles about people living in near stone age conditions in places like South America in the Amazon, Sub Sahara Africa, and Australia.


    • Love is built in to get parents stay together long enough to have children and to look after them and to ensure they survive

    • by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @10:39AM (#25817057) Homepage Journal

      Thank you.

      People that look back historically always seem to look at people back then as if they are children. Even when they are full grown adults. Its not like we are more capable then they were. Its not like they are somehow stupid. Like on TV cave men always simply grunt, when their vocal capabilities are vast. No other animal with vocal capabilities simply ignores them. Its un-scientifit. They couldn't develop without use.

      So this crack about if there is "space for love?" Come on! He says that as if Love is useless. Again, unscientific.

    • by Tisha_AH ( 600987 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @10:41AM (#25817107) Journal

      The authors statement about time for love is pedantic. There are numerous literary references from contemporary cultures of the same era on love (sumerians, egyptians, etc...). There are surviving cuneiform tablets of poetry, filled with references to love and adoration that are discovered with quite regularity in Iraq.

      The human species of 10,000 years ago and of today are virtually identical in our physical and emotional development.

      The differences that brought about "modern" civilization were on agricultural practices where we gradually converted from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to stationary agricultural practices, animal husbandry and permanent communities. Then, as technologies developed (the wheel, the plow, irrigation, pottery, masonry, etc..) we had leisure time to devote to art and literature.

      To think that we did not have time for "love" in a harsh environment is to ignore the more contemporary examples such as the Inuit or rain forest peoples where life was very difficult but cohesive families based on love and a sense of belonging have existed for thousands of years.

      • The differences that brought about "modern" civilization were on agricultural practices where we gradually converted from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to stationary agricultural practices, animal husbandry and permanent communities. Then, as technologies developed (the wheel, the plow, irrigation, pottery, masonry, etc..) we had leisure time to devote to art and literature.

        The key is to spend your gold and resource early to do research so you can jump ages. This prevents some d-bag from building a castle right near your farms forcing you to be half an age behind and just a lamb for the slaughter at any point in the game.

  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:04AM (#25814831)

    Murder is a legal construct from relatively modern times; and even the modern definition excludes such things as killing of enemies. The ideas about who is your enemy has shiftet somewhat since that time, I imagine.

    • Actually, we're talking only 4600 years old. Codes of laws included murder in the same age, e.g., in Messopotamia or Egypt.

      And even by tribal warfare standards, it sounds as an atrocity. You don't take the time to smash someone's fingers _after_ they're already stone dead. Doing that to women and children? Oooer. (Women used to be taken as spoils of war anyway, since a disproportionately shorter life expectancy gave primitive people -- and by that I mean at least as late as 100 BC Roman Empire! -- a chronic

      • The Roman Empire did not exist in 100 B.C. It was still a male-democratic Republic (like the 1800s United States).

        • While that's true, it was the same country, and I'm sure you understand what I'm talking about.

          The event I'm talking about is the Battle of Aquae Sextiae of 102 BC, where the Teutones were finally defeated. The Romans demanded that 300 women be handed over to them, as wives. The women asked to be at least allowed to served in the temples instead, but the Romans really wanted wives. The women commited mass suicide.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BigBlueOx ( 1201587 )
        And even by tribal warfare standards, it sounds as an atrocity.

        Actually, by tribal warfare standards, hell, by chimpanzee warfare standards, this is SOP. Tribal warfare usually emphasized macho posturing and ritual killing of an enemy semi-equal to boost one's status in the community (a good historical example of this is the story of Crazy Horse).
        But every now and then things would get serious and a mass killing/destroying/burn-it-all-down raid against an enemy will occur. What's *fascinating* is that
      • Oh, but it IS human nature; we are after all just glorified chimps, more or less, and they are certainly more than capable of butchering their own kind. And just like us they don't often kill members of their own group, whether it is down to instinct or "law". But the original post makes it sound as if it is assumed that we can just apply modern legislation to the scenario, which I maintain that we can't, at least not without qualification.

        I suppose it is understandable that people want to see this kind of

        • It is a common misunderstanding to think that psychopaths are raging, murderous beasts; the typical psychopath is primarily amoral and unempathic. While this may on occasion lead to extremes of violence or worse, it is more common that they are fairly petty criminals that drift from opportunity to opportunity without taking any sincere interest in anything

          You'll notice I've said that the _dumb_ ones end up personally murdering anyone. The successful ones end up politicians and CEOs and convince others to do

    • Bloody murder... or bloody LIE? Four mysterious skeletons found with holes in their skulls: join us as we delve into this shocking tale. Archaeologists say they were murdered... but could the truth be far more horrible?

  • For a moment, I thought Otto Hahn's family had fallen victim to a fanatic bent on turning back the clock of nuclear proliferation....

  • by Roland Piquepaille ( 780675 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:07AM (#25814841)

    it's a human thing, somebody must have really cared for them

    Big holes in the head, broken limbs, bits of stone axe in the back? someone must have really cared for them, but in a Charlie Manson sort of way...

  • i read this story on the bbc a few days ago, and again here today. but one thing i still dont get, what is a nuclear family?

  • by PinkyDead ( 862370 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:36AM (#25814979) Journal

    I often wonder, when we put characteristics on people when we name them are we making a huge mistake.

    Imagine, if you will...

    Here's Guntherisk, master of all he surveys, wielder of the mighty stone ax of Guildergrump, slayer of men and ravisher of women - confident that his greatness will be remembered in tales and song for thousands of years to come.

    Well apparently not, he will be remembered for his brilliant idea of putting cord marks into pottery (which was actually Mrs Guntherisk's idea).

  • No space for love? I'd assume that there was a form of love present between the family members. As for their deaths, it was probably similar to why people fight now: over territory, "stolen" mates, etc. I'm not trying to make a zillion assumptions, but I find it hard to believe that the crux of human behavior has changed that much, things like specialization of workers, writing, extensive schooling etc. seem more like cultural changes that have been building on one another for ages. I've heard from books th
    • Oh, I also just wanted to say, if you're wondering if these guys were so busy scrabbling to survive, feel more sorry for yourself. Turns out significantly less time [] was required for labor.

      Not only had hunter-gatherers enjoyed plenty of protein, not much fat and ample vitamins in their diet, but it also seems they did not have to work very hard. The Hadza of Tanzania "work" about 14 hours a week

      So they had plenty of time for love, way way more so than your average family with two working parents. Hmm. . .bot

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by bestiarosa ( 938309 )

        From the same article you mentioned, but a bit further down:

        What's more, the famously "affluent society" of hunter-gatherers, with plenty of time to gossip by the fire between hunts and gathers, turns out to be a bit of a myth, or at least an artefact of modern life. The measurements of time spent getting food by the !Kung omitted food-processing time and travel time, partly because the anthropologists gave their subjects lifts in their vehicles and lent them metal knives to process food.

        Very interesting read (I mean your link).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So they had plenty of time for love, way way more so than your average family with two working parents.

        ...unless you account for the life expectancy, I guess?

  • by dontmakemethink ( 1186169 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:05AM (#25815115)

    "We don't know how hard daily life was back there and if there was any space for love"

    "there are big holes in their heads"

    Hell yeah. Mod me nasty, but you're feelin it.

  • by Konster ( 252488 )

    Fellow readers,

    Keep in mind that the world back then was a much more dangerous place than it is now. 4600 years ago, nearly anything could have been considered a weapon of mass destruction; rocks, branches, fresh poop on a sharpened stick, et cetera, et cetera. We can proudly say that now the only weapons of mass destruction are nuclear bombs and biological/chemical weaponry...but this simply wasn't so back then.

    What has not been outlined in this report, but is a subject of speculation, is that these people

    • by MLease ( 652529 )

      I'm thinking you don't understand the term "weapon of mass destruction". It doesn't refer to just any old weapon; it refers to a weapon capable of destroying many people (or multiple buildings, etc.) simultaneously. The types of weapons back then did their damage at the retail level; the nukes and chemical/biological agents we have today do it at the wholesale level.

      It would have to be one damn big rock to kill several people at once.


  • Sampling bias (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vuo ( 156163 )
    Duh. This is obvious sampling bias. Of course the oldest find of the skeletons of a complete family is that of a family died suddenly and violently. If they had died separately, it'd be less likely that they'd be found in exact same location.
  • I'm not surprised. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rufty ( 37223 )

    For the family to be identifiable as a family and not a bunch of adult graves miles and years apart, they'll have all had to die at the same time. Doesn't mean it was necessarily common back then, though.

  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @09:25AM (#25816187)
    "If you were around this area in germany 4600 years ago and have information about this murder that could lead to th earrest of suspects, please the dial number at the bottom of your screen. I'm Robert Stacks, and this is Unsolved Mysteries."
  • A nuclear family simply means a father, mother, and kids. []
  • Sorry for my ignorance, but what exactly about this family makes them nuclear? Did they have glowing laser eyes, or some other superpowers?

    I read through the articles waiting for the crazy scifi-ish punchline (this is slashdot), but I was highly disappointed.

    • by danzona ( 779560 )
      Sorry for my ignorance, but what exactly about this family makes them nuclear? Did they have glowing laser eyes, or some other superpowers?

      Only if their laser eyes and other superpowers came from some kind of nuclear accident. If someone can run really fast because his chemical lab was struck by lightning, it does not count.

      Otherwise, a nuclear family is one that consists of 2 parents and their children living in a self sufficient manner. This is to contrast with the extended family, which contains

Disks travel in packs.