Austronesians, who share a common ancestral language, originated in Taiwan and fanned outward across the Indian and Pacific oceans, from Madagascar to Easter Island and as far south as New Zealand. In highly stratified societies, class differences were strict, social mobility restricted, and stature largely inherited.
By combing through historical and ethnographic accounts, the researchers identified which cultures practiced human sacrifice prior to contact with modern industrialized nations.
This might imply the burial of high-ranking women together with sacrificed men of lower rank, but the pattern is unique and therefore difficult to interpret.
These inscriptions had suggested that many sacrificial victims were foreigners whom the leaders of Yinxu captured in wars, and the isotopic analysis added physical evidence to back up that scenario. In his spare time, he has traveled to all seven continents.
They may have been sacrificed. In pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, for example, where ritual killing of humans was ubiquitous among the Maya, Inca, Aztecs and others, it can be tempting to identify any evidence of violent death as sacrifice, but researchers may at times consider other explanations, such as mass executions or reprisal killings, Schwartz notes.
The family trees allowed them to estimate whether human sacrifice and social stratification arose in the same places, and whether ritualized killings drove changes in class divisions.