Seguin-Orlando A, Donat R, Der Sarkissian C, Southon J, Thèves C, Manen C, Tchérémissinoff Y, Crubézy E, Shapiro B, Deleuze JF, Dalén L, Guilaine J, Orlando L
Curr. Biol. 31 (5) 1072-1083.e10 [2021-03-08; online 2021-01-13]
The transition from the Late Neolithic to the Bronze Age has witnessed important population and societal changes in western Europe. 1 These include massive genomic contributions of pastoralist herders originating from the Pontic-Caspian steppes2,3 into local populations, resulting from complex interactions between collapsing hunter-gatherers and expanding farmers of Anatolian ancestry.4-8 This transition is documented through extensive ancient genomic data from present-day Britain,9,10 Ireland,11,12 Iberia,13 Mediterranean islands,14,15 and Germany.8 It remains, however, largely overlooked in France, where most focus has been on the Middle Neolithic (n = 63),8,9,16 with the exception of one Late Neolithic genome sequenced at 0.05× coverage.16 This leaves the key transitional period covering ∼3,400-2,700 cal. years (calibrated years) BCE genetically unsampled and thus the exact time frame of hunter-gatherer persistence and arrival of steppe migrations unknown. To remediate this, we sequenced 24 ancient human genomes from France spanning ∼3,400-1,600 cal. years BCE. This reveals Late Neolithic populations that are genetically diverse and include individuals with dark skin, hair, and eyes. We detect heterogeneous hunter-gatherer ancestries within Late Neolithic communities, reaching up to ∼63.3% in some individuals, and variable genetic contributions of steppe herders in Bell Beaker populations. We provide an estimate as late as ∼3,800 years BCE for the admixture between Neolithic and Mesolithic populations and as early as ∼2,650 years BCE for the arrival of steppe-related ancestry. The genomic heterogeneity characterized underlines the complex history of human interactions even at the local scale.
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