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Thread: Steppe ancestry in Single Grave Culture of the Neolithic

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    Advisor Angela's Avatar
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    Steppe ancestry in Single Grave Culture of the Neolithic

    Genomic Steppe ancestry in skeletons from the Neolithic Single Grave Culture in Denmark

    • Anne Friis-Holm Egfjord,
    • Ashot Margaryan,
    • Anders Fischer,
    • Karl-Göran Sjögren,
    • T. Douglas Price,
    • Niels N. Johannsen,
    • Poul Otto Nielsen,
    • Lasse Sørensen,
    • Eske Willerslev,
    • Rune Iversen,
    • Martin Sikora,
    • Kristian Kristiansen ,
    • Morten E. Allentoft


    The Gjerrild burial provides the largest and best-preserved assemblage of human skeletal material presently known from the Single Grave Culture (SGC) in Denmark. For generations it has been debated among archaeologists if the appearance of this archaeological complex represents a continuation of the previous Neolithic communities, or was facilitated by incoming migrants. We sampled and analysed five skeletons from the Gjerrild cist, buried over a period of c. 300 years, 2600/2500–2200 cal BCE. Despite poor DNA preservation, we managed to sequence the genome (>1X) of one individual and the partial genomes (0.007X and 0.02X) of another two individuals. Our genetic data document a female (Gjerrild 1) and two males (Gjerrild 5 + 8), harbouring typical Neolithic K2a and HV0 mtDNA haplogroups, but also a rare basal variant of the R1b1 Y-chromosomal haplogroup. Genome-wide analyses demonstrate that these people had a significant Yamnaya-derived (i.e. steppe) ancestry component and a close genetic resemblance to the Corded Ware (and related) groups that were present in large parts of Northern and Central Europe at the time. Assuming that the Gjerrild skeletons are genetically representative of the population of the SGC in broader terms, the transition from the local Neolithic Funnel Beaker Culture (TRB) to SGC is not characterized by demographic continuity. Rather, the emergence of SGC in Denmark was part of the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age population expansion that swept across the European continent in the 3rd millennium BCE, resulting in various degrees of genetic replacement and admixture processes with previous Neolithic populations."

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