Remains of World's First Identical Twins Dating back 30,000 Years Unearthed in Austria
The first-ever known twins found in Austria | Image credit: Twitter
Archaeology can result in fascinating yet heart-breaking discoveries at the same time. In a sad yet profound discovery, skeletal remains of a pair of new-born twins from 30,000 years ago have been unearthed, making them the earliest known identical twins in history.
The infant remains came from a grave in Austria from Gravettian site of Krems-Wachtberg. They belong to the Upper Palaeolithic era.
Researchers analysed their DNA and confirmed that the two happen to share their entire genome. Both of them are reported to have born after a full-term but died at separate times. One of them lived for six-seven months while the other died around 14 weeks after birth. They were buried in an oval-shaped grave and the bodies embedded in red ochre. The heads were facing east inside the grave.
Accompanying the bodies were grave goods – items to send off the person into the afterlife. The younger one had mammoth ivory beads wrapped around his pelvis. The other wore a necklace of molluscs. The ivory beads were observed by the researchers as ‘remarkable’ as they were all exceptionally similar in shape and size, all 53 of them, beaded through a string.
Another infant was found in the grave aged around three-months-old. Researchers believe he is the twins’ cousin through DNA evidence. According to the study published in Nature, this is the very first confirmed evidence of twins in archaeological record.
Processes like major Y chromosome and mitochondrial haplogroups, with samples taken from their crania, helped reveal the shared genome. With bone length and dental development stages, their age around time of death was assessed. Inside the grave, the oldest infant was placed in the centre and the youngest was around the southwest edge.
The grave was not backfilled. Backfilling is a process where the dug-out earth collected from digging the grave is used to refill the pit. Instead, the pit was covered with the shoulder blade of a mammoth, molded in a way to fit the opening.
The Gravettian site of Krems-Wachtberg area has been a focus of archaeological research since 2005. Many graves and Palaeolithic camps have been discovered there over the decades.