Double feature: First genetic evidence of a mother-daughter double burial in Roman period Austria

Hagmann, D., Ankerl, B., Kirchengast, N., Cheronet, O., Greisinger, M., Miglbauer, R., Kirchengast, S., 2024. Double feature: First genetic evidence of a mother-daughter double burial in Roman period Austria. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 55, 104479.


A human double burial combined with a horse interment, discovered in 2004 in the eastern cemetery of the Roman town of Ovilava (today Wels/AUT), has been the subject of a comprehensive interdisciplinary study. This burial was remarkable for two reasons: firstly, the arrangement of the two individuals, with individual 1 having an arm around individual 2, and secondly, the presence of equine skeletal remains in the same burial pit directly below the human remains. Based on this finding, an initial assessment suggested a mixed-sex pair buried together with a horse. The horse burial was interpreted as an indicator of an early medieval date. The position of the two human skeletons suggested that a male and female individual had been buried together. A thorough examination of both the human and horse skeletons disproved these initial interpretations. Radiocarbon dating of the human and horse skeletons dated them to the Roman period. In addition, ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis of the human remains corrected the earlier sex assumption, revealing that the individuals were two biological females who were first-degree relatives. The age difference of 15 to 25 years between the two suggests a probable mother-daughter relationship. Thus, the application of scientific methods confirmed a rare, combined human-horse burial from Roman antiquity and established the first genetically documented mother-daughter burial from this period in present-day Austria.


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