The Arrival of Steppe and Iranian Related Ancestry in the Islands of the Western Mediterranean
Brendan J Culleton,
Kendra A Sirak,
Roberto M Miccichè,
Maria R Palombo,
Douglas J. Kennett,
Posted 21 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/584714
Posted 21 Mar 2019
A series of studies have documented how Steppe pastoralist-related ancestry reached central Europe by at least 2500 BCE, while Iranian farmer-related ancestry was present in Aegean Europe by at least 1900 BCE. However, the spread of these ancestries into the western Mediterranean where they have contributed to many populations living today remains poorly understood. We generated genome-wide ancient DNA from the Balearic Islands, Sicily, and Sardinia, increasing the number of individuals with reported data from these islands from 3 to 52. We obtained data from the oldest skeleton excavated from the Balearic islands (dating to ~2400 BCE), and show that this individual had substantial Steppe pastoralist-derived ancestry; however, later Balearic individuals had less Steppe heritage reflecting geographic heterogeneity or immigration from groups with more European first farmer-related ancestry. In Sicily, Steppe pastoralist ancestry arrived by ~2200 BCE and likely came at least in part from Spain as it was associated with Iberian-specific Y chromosomes. In Sicily, Iranian-related ancestry also arrived by the Middle Bronze Age, thus revealing that this ancestry type, which was ubiquitous in the Aegean by this time, also spread further west prior to the classical period of Greek expansion. In Sardinia, we find no evidence of either eastern ancestry type in the Nuragic Bronze Age, but show that Iranian-related ancestry arrived by at least ~300 BCE and Steppe ancestry arrived by ~300 CE, joined at that time or later by North African ancestry. These results falsify the view that the people of Sardinia are isolated descendants of Europe's first farmers. Instead, our results show that the island's admixture history since the Bronze Age is as complex as that in many other parts of Europe.
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