Ancient DNA reveals monozygotic newborn twins from the Upper Palaeolithic

Commun Biol. 2020 Nov 6;3(1):650. doi: 10.1038/s42003-020-01372-8.


The Upper Palaeolithic double burial of newborns and the single burial of a ca. 3-month-old infant uncovered at the Gravettian site of Krems-Wachtberg, Austria, are of paramount importance given the rarity of immature human remains from this time. Genome-wide ancient DNA shows that the male infants of the double grave are the earliest reported case of monozygotic twins, while the single grave´s individual was their 3rd-degree male relative. We assessed the individuals´ age at death by applying histological and µCT inspection of the maxillary second incisors (i2) in conjunction with C- and N-isotope ratios and Barium (Ba) intake as biomarker for breastfeeding. The results show that the twins were full-term newborns, and that while individual 2 died at birth, individual 1 survived for about 50 days. The findings show that Gravettian mortuary behaviour also included re-opening of a grave and manipulation of its layout and content.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Burial
  • DNA / genetics*
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Paleontology
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics*


  • DNA