Ancient Human Genetics Study On People From The Iberian Peninsula Revealed Surprising Outcomes

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A new study published in the Science journal researched 8,000 years of ancient human genetics in the Iberian Peninsula. The results surprised scientists, as they revealed more than just genetic complexity. It appears that around 4,500 BC, there was a migration which had a significant impact on the DNA of the ancient Iberians.

“We wanted to bridge the ancient populations and the modern populations,” said Iñigo Olalde, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the paper.

Ancient male Iberians almost vanished during the Bronze Age

During the Bronze Age (between 4000 and 4500 years ago) the Iberian peninsula was transformed. The research revealed that the men from Spain almost disappeared after a mass migration of people that came from the Russian steppe. Meanwhile, the genes of women weren’t that affected, and researchers don’t know yet why there was a huge change just for males.

”The DNA was a surprise,” says doctoral student Vanessa Villalba-Mouco, an archaeogeneticist who led the research for the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and the University of Zaragoza in Spain. “Clues about what happened at that moment help us understand the evolution of the next period. We need to sample more individuals to know their history in a more accurate way.”

The evolution of ancient human genetics in the Iberian Peninsula

Researchers analyzed the genome of 403 ancient human DNA that lived in the Iberian Peninsula between 6000 BC and 1600 AD. The population went through several changes, from hunters and gatherers to farmers 7500 years ago. It appears that there was a massive influx of people during the Copper Age, and, during the Bronze Age, the “immigrants” represented around 40% of the Iberian genetic pool.

“We reveal sporadic contacts between Iberia and North Africa by 2500 BC and, by 2000 BC, the replacement of 40% of Iberia’s ancestry and nearly 100% of its Y-chromosomes by people with Steppe ancestry,” explained researchers.


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