The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

The origins of the Aegean palatial civilizations from a population genetic perspective


1Department of History and Ethnology, Demokritus University of Thrace, 2Palaeogenetics Group, Institute of Anthropology, Johannes Gutenberg-University of Mainz

March 26, 2015 2:45, Lindbergh Add to calendar

The present paper investigates the origins of the Aegean pre-palatial civilizations (5th-3rd millennium BC) by applying cutting-edge methods of molecular biology and population genetics. The term Aegean Civilizations refers to the novel human lifeway (agriculture and craft specialization, redistribution systems, intensive trade) that appeared during the end of the Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age in the Aegean. Although many studies exist on archaeological constructions of ethnic and cultural identity on mainland Greece, the Cyclades and Crete, not enough efforts have been made to explore this direction on a population history basis. We have investigated Late, Final Neolithic and Early Bronze Age human skeletons (n=127) from the Aegean using ancient DNA methods, next generation sequencing (NGS) technology and statistical population genetic inferences to i) gather information on diversity, population size, and origin of the pre-palatial Aegean Cultures, ii) to compare them on a genetic basis, in terms of their cultural division (Helladic, Cycladic, Minoan) and iii) to investigate their ancestral/non-ancestral status to the Early and Middle Neolithic farmers from Greece. In addition to mitochondrial DNA genomes, by applying a capture-NGS approach we collected information on functional traits of the early Aegean communities in southeastern Europe. Considering the International Spirit that overwhelms the Aegean during the 3rd millennium BC, seen by the wide distribution of artifacts, this palaeogenetic approach provides valuable new insights on population structure of the groups involved in the Neolithic-Bronze Age transition and the spread of specific alleles in this part of Europe.

This work is co-funded by the European Union (European Social Fund) and National Resources under the Operational Programme “Education and Lifelong Learning” Action ARISTEIA II, NSRF 2007-2013 (Code 3461- ARCHAEOGENETICS)