October 17, 2019



Alissa Mittnik
Department of Archaeogenetics
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
07745 Jena, Germany

Dear Alissa Mittnik,

I have read the abstract of “Kinship-based social inequality in Bronze
Age Europe” and the review Ann Gibbons, “Bronze Age inequality and family life revealed in powerful study” Science vol. 366 no. 6462 October 11, 2019 page 168. 

I understand that your team, using different specialized approaches, developed evidence that during the Bronze Age in Europe, there were at least two local populations in the region studied, the populations being genetically distinct and one being very high status compared with the other.  In the highest status households, the men tended to marry and remain where they had been born but women traveled more than 100 miles from their birth place and remained thereafter in the husbands’ locality.  This pattern was stable for some 700 years.  Yet at the very micro level, one family line could only be traced for some four or five generations. 

On the face of it, this is contradictory.  Maybe I can help.  My entire preoccupation for the last 30 years has been the relationship between kinship and fertility.  You would think that I would by now have a summary of my evidence that I was happy with, but new evidence keeps coming – your own work included – and what I have is shot full of typographical errors.  You can check out my YouTube presentations, http://nobabies.net/YouTube%20links.html  , and the scripts http://nobabies.net/movie%20scripts.html .  In lieu of a fair copy I offer to consult any time 24/7 at your pleasure. 

Scripture, of course, has little place in scientific conversation, but reading the old testament shows an interest in genealogy to the point of nausea.  What we have is surely a fraction of what was compiled over centuries by dedicated people outnumbering even your mighty team.  My sense is that their findings were codified and summarized by the so-called “Ten Commandments,” which were nothing of the sort.  There is one commandment, and it’s “Worship no other God,” or “Don’t marry outside your congregation,” since marriage has generally been a religious ritual throughout history.  This commandment is repeated a number of times culminating in words: “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the sons even to the third and fourth generation.”  Anybody would cringe at such words so patently unfair, but I squirm, thinking, “(Expletive deleted)”, it should be four or five generations, that’s my feel for how long it takes a migrant’s family to die out.”   

So, my resolution of your paradox is that there was a population of the genetically high-status people who were yet not so rich as the ones you found with their snazzy grave goods.  So, the riches (and I think this must hold for the present day) married far from home and died out right on schedule, to be replaced from the less high-status but not bottom rung population.

I am hoping this helps in your work.  If there is anything I can do, please let me know.


M. Linton Herbert MD

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