A DNA analysis of 35 individuals buried in a Neolithic grave in the Cotswolds revealed that they were all descended from the same four women, who had their children 5700 years ago.

Researchers said they couldn’t be sure whether it was an example of polygamy – which involves being in a relationship or married to more than one partner – or serial monogamy, where a person has one ‘other half’ at any one time.

However, genetic testing proved that 27 people were descendants of five extended families. Experts could then reconstruct the oldest known family tree.

The group lived about 3700 to 3600 BC — around 100 years after farming had been introduced to Britain.

Discovery: DNA analysis of 35 people buried in a Neolithic tomb in the Cotswolds (pictured in a reconstruction) has revealed that most were from five generations of a single extended family

Discovery: The DNA analysis on 35 people who were buried in a Neolithic burial in the Cotswolds, (picture in reconstruction) revealed that many of them came from five generations within a single extended family.

Lineage: The majority of the individuals, 27 in total, were descended from four women who all had children with the same man and lived around 3700 to 3600 BC. Researchers said the findings allowed them to 'uncover the oldest family tree ever reconstructed' (pictured)

Linguage: Most of the 27 individuals were descendants from 4 women, who had their children with one man. They lived between 3700 and 3600 BC. The researchers claimed that the discoveries allowed them to uncover the oldest known family tree (pictured).


Polygamy refers to the practice of having multiple partners. 

Sociologists refer to polygyny as when a man marries more than one woman at once. Researchers believe this is possible in this instance.

In Latin, polygamous literally means “many lovers” and was coined for the first time in the 1960s.

An analysis of DNA from 35 people who were buried in a Neolithic burial ground in the Cotswolds showed that many of them came from five generations.

Research revealed that 27 were descendants of four different women, all having had their children with the same father.

With the aid of genetic testing, they were able establish that. 

They said that they weren’t sure if it was polygamy or serial mongamy. This is when a person can have one of two ‘other halves’ at once.

The research involved archaeologists at Newcastle University, geneticists at the University of Vienna, University of the Basque Country and Harvard University.

It is the first study to reveal in such detail how prehistoric families were structured and provides new insights into kinship and burial practices in Neolithic times, the authors said.

Two L-shaped chambered areas were located to the south and north of Hazleton North’s main linear structure. These are where people were buried.

Researchers discovered that the majority of men were laid to rest alongside their father and brother, which suggests that the descent is patrilineal. The tomb connecting to the first generation was buried entirely by male relatives.

Although two of the three daughters of this lineage were killed in childhood, their remains were buried in the grave. The absence of any adult daughters indicates that they were either placed in the graves of their male partners, with whom they had children or in another location. 

Newcastle University’s Dr Chris Fowler, who was the lead archaeologist and first author of the study, stated that the research provides unprecedented insights into the nature of kinship within a Neolithic community. 

Hazleton North’s tomb contains two distinct chambered areas. They can both be accessed by a northern and a southern entry. A remarkable finding about this tomb is that the bodies of deceased were originally placed in one of the two tomb halves. 

“This information is more important because it indicates that other Neolithic tombs may have architectural patterns which could reveal how kinship was conducted at these tombs.”

The right to the tomb was granted through patrilineal ties. However, in the beginning, it depended on whether the individual would be buried in either the north chambered or south chambered areas. This suggests that the social significance of these women in this community’s memories.

It’s also believed that stepsons were adopted into this lineage.

Researchers found evidence that males’ mother, but not their biological dad, was interred in the tomb. The mother also appeared to have had children from a patriline male.

The cairn at Hazleton North included two L-shaped chambered areas (pictured), located to the north and south of the main 'spine' of the linear structure, where individuals were buried

Hazleton North had two L-shaped chambered zones (pictured), which were to the south and north of the main spine of the linear structure. This was where individual burials took place.

A bone from the right arm of one of the people buried at the Hazleton North tomb is pictured

A photo of a bone from the right side of one the Hazleton north buried persons is shown below

The Neolithic site buried 35 of these people were all related. However, only eight other people were. The only criteria for being included in the tomb was biological similarity.

It’s possible, however, that three of the women were females and had a spouse in the tomb. However they did not have children or have daughters who have left the community.

Iñigo Olalde of the University of the Basque Country and Ikerbasque, the lead geneticist for the study and co-first author, said: ‘The excellent DNA preservation at the tomb and the use of the latest technologies in ancient DNA recovery and analysis allowed us to uncover the oldest family tree ever reconstructed and analyse it to understand something profound about the social structure of these ancient groups.’ 

Ron Pinhasi of University of Vienna stated: “It was hard to imagine only a few years back that we would ever learn about Neolithic Kinship Structures. 

“But this is just the start. No doubt, there are many more sites to explore in Britain and Atlantic France.

Nature published the study.

Britain made the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer and settled around 7,000 years ago, as part of what was called the “Neolithic Revolution”.

The Neolithic Revolution in Agriculture was the first truly verifiable revolution in farming.

The phenomenon originated in Britain around 5000 BC to 4500 BC, but it spread throughout Europe between 11000 BC to 9000 BC.

This period witnessed the gradual transition from nomad hunting and gathering to farming and small-scale settlement building.

Stonehenge, the most famous prehistoric structure in Europe, possibly the world, was built by Neolithic people, and later added to during the early Bronze Age

Stonehenge is the prehistoric monument most famous in Europe and possibly the globe. It was constructed by Neolithic people. Later, it was enlarged during the Early Bronze Age.

It was this revolution that made small groups from travellers settled in communities and built villages, towns, and other places.

To improve their farming methods, some cultures made use of irrigation.

Some people stored food to feed their families during times of need. Eventually, farming created new roles for different workers in both trading and social economies.

The period in the UK was caused by massive migration from the Channel.

The Neolithic Revolution saw humans in Britain move from groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled communities. Some of the earliest monuments in Britain are Neolithic structures, including Silbury Hill in Wiltshire (pictured)

In Britain, the Neolithic Revolution witnessed humans move away from nomadic hunters-gatherers and into settled communities. Neolithic structures are some of Britain’s earliest monuments, such as Silbury Hill (pictured), in Wiltshire.

Prehistoric monuments are found throughout the UK today. They span the period of Neolithic farmers through the Romans’ invasion in AD 43.

English Heritage takes care of many of these stones, from large stone circles to standing stones and burial mounds to fortified hillforts.

Stonehenge is the prehistoric monument most widely known in Europe and the globe. It was constructed by Neolithic people.

The Neolithic structure was used most often for religious feasts, ceremonies and centres of trade.