Substack cometh, and lo it is good. (Pricing)

Italian genetics in the Bronze Age

A new paper on Italian Bronze Age and Iron Age genomics, Ancient genomes reveal structural shifts after the arrival of Steppe-related ancestry in the Italian Peninsula. The abstract:

Across Europe, the genetics of the Chalcolithic/Bronze Age transition is increasingly characterized in terms of an influx of Steppe-related ancestry. The effect of this major shift on the genetic structure of populations in the Italian Peninsula remains underexplored. Here, genome-wide shotgun data for 22 individuals from commingled cave and single burials in Northeastern and Central Italy dated between 3200 and 1500 BCE provide the first genomic characterization of Bronze Age individuals (n = 8; 0.001-1.2× coverage) from the central Italian Peninsula, filling a gap in the literature between 1950 and 1500 BCE. Our study confirms a diversity of ancestry components during the Chalcolithic and the arrival of Steppe-related ancestry in the central Italian Peninsula as early as 1600 BCE, with this ancestry component increasing through time. We detect close patrilineal kinship in the burial patterns of Chalcolithic commingled cave burials and a shift away from this in the Bronze Age (2200-900 BCE) along with lowered runs of homozygosity, which may reflect larger changes in population structure. Finally, we find no evidence that the arrival of Steppe-related ancestry in Central Italy directly led to changes in frequency of 115 phenotypes present in the dataset, rather that the post-Roman Imperial period had a stronger influence, particularly on the frequency of variants associated with protection against Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Our study provides a closer look at local dynamics of demography and phenotypic shifts as they occurred as part of a broader phenomenon of widespread admixture during the Chalcolithic/Bronze Age transition.

The samples pick up steppe ancestry around 1600 BC, but that’s due to a lacuna in the transect. We know now that steppe ancestry arrived in Spain and Greece before 2000 BC. It seems to me unlikely that it would be notably tardy in Italy.

Another thing I want to mention is there is clearly something West Asian (CGH-related) that is moving westward ~2000 BC in a straight shot from Anatolia to the Balkans to southern Italy. This migration seems associated with Y chromosomal lineage J2. Trying to estimate how much exogenous post-Imperial eastern ancestry is present in Southern Italians is somewhat difficult for this reason. The differences between the far south and central and northern Italy may date to the Bronze Age because of this minority component of West Asian ancestry that extended itself across the Mediterranean.

Related: my Substack piece from March on the genetic/cultural history of Italy.

5 thoughts on “Italian genetics in the Bronze Age

  1. Also new but preprint – – “The genetic origin of Daunians and the Pan-Mediterranean southern Italian Iron Age context” – “An example of the cosmopolitan nature of the Iron Age Mediterranean is the first-degree relationship between ORD009 (mother) and ORD001 (daughter), whose positions in the PCA strikingly differ with the individual ORD001 being stretched towards Middle Eastern and Caucasus modern populations, as a consequence of the foreign origin of the father (Figure 1C and Figure S4).” Approx 500 BCE.

  2. I have thought this to be the case since Raveane et al. 2018. I wonder if this CHG related ancestry has something to do with Minoans and Mycenaeans as well, who also shows CHG in modeling. I think “outlier” Latin samples like R437 and R850 help support early CHG-related influences as well. As well as the father of ORD001 from the Daunian pre-print. Personally I think the Imperial age migrations, while having *some* contributions to all of Italy and much of the Roman Empire, is somewhat over blown. I think the real difference was mostly because of this EBA CHG-related migration. The Daunian pre-print said the Pan-Mediterranean genetic continuum is considered to be partly defined by Anatolian_N+CHG.

  3. @Razib Khan, I wish you could revisit your subtrack on Ancient Rome, in regards to this EBA-CHG influence once more is known about it.

  4. Just briefly, some Wiki excerpts…

    WIKI: “Towards the late Bronze Age (11th-10th centuries BC), Illyrian populations from the eastern Adriatic arrived in Apulia.[4] The Illyrians in Italy, united with the pre-existing people and groups from the Aegean, probably from Crete, created the Iapygian civilization which consisted of three tribes: the Peucetians, Messapians and Daunians.[5]”

    “Dauninas – The ethnonym is connected to the name of the wolf, plausibly the totemic animal of this nation. The cult of the wolf was widespread in ancient Italy and was related to the Arcadian mystery cult. Daunos means wolf, according to ancient glosses…”

    [MT: … Beowulf???]

    “The Encyclopédie under “Peuceti”, distinguishes them from another ancient people, the Peucetioe who were living in Liburnia at the head of the Adriatic, with a reference to Callimachus, as quoted in Pliny (H.N. III.21) placing their country in Pliny’s day as part of Illyria.[3]”

    “Before Roman expansion and conquest the Messapians, in southeast Italy (roughly in today’s Apulia), were possibly also a people of Illyrian affiliation (of the same Indo-European branch as other Illyrians) and spoke Messapian (also Illyrian proper related).”

    “The origin of the Messapii is debated. The most credited theory is that they came from Illyria as one of the Illyrian tribes who settled in Apulia…”

    MT: The above-mentioned tribes, including non-mentioned tribes (Sa[r]bini, Dardani, Rasseni [i.e. Etruscans] were Serbian speaking tribes. The city of Rome (originally – Ruma) was founded by Serbian tribes who gave the name. Ruma (the meaning is ‘place/space for living’) is a medium size city 40 km from Belgrade. From this word originated the English word ROOM and Serbian word ‘podrum’ (i.e. ‘under room’= basement).


  5. Razib Khan, not always I agree with you, but you are a geneticist, and we may discuss about genetics from a scientific point of view, but what has to do with you this Serb Milan Todorovic as in the opposite way many Albanians who translate Etruscan and even Italian through Albanian?

Comments are closed.