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Genetic changes in Southern Iberia during the Bronze Age

Fortified settlement of Labastida (Totana, Murcia). It is one of the largest and best excavated settlements in El Argar. Credit: ASOME-UAB

The 3rd millennium BC is a highly dynamic period of prehistoric times in Europe and West Asia, characterized by massive social and political changes. In the Iberian Peninsula, the Chalcolithic era began in earnest around 2500 BC, and demographics increased significantly. This is evidenced by the diversity of villages and fortresses, monumental funeral structures, and over 100 hectares of abandoned megasites. For reasons still unclear, the second half of the Millennium experienced depopulation and megasites, fortified settlements and the abandonment of the Necropolis.


In southeastern Iberia, one of the finest archaeological entities of the Bronze Age in Europe emerged around 2200 BC. Known as the El Algar culture, one of the first state-level societies on the European continent, this culture has large hilltop settlements, unique pottery, special weapons, bronze, silver and gold crafts, inside walls. It featured a burial ceremony.

Led by researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the Max Planck Institute for Anthropology (Jena) and Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig) Science AdvancesBy analyzing the genomes of 136 ancient Iberians from 3000 BC to 1500 BC, we found dynamic changes on a population scale and major social and political changes in the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC. Investigate the relationship.

Genetic sales and melting pot of race

A new study, including a genome published from Iberia, covers data from nearly 300 ancient individuals, with a particular focus on the transition from the Chalcolithic to the Bronze Age around 2200 BC.

“I knew that the so-called” grass “related ancestors that spread throughout Europe during the 3rd millennium BC eventually reached the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula around 2400 BC, but the prehistoric people of El Algar culture. I was surprised to find all of them. The period was part of this ancestor, but not the Chalcolithic individual, “said Wolfganghark, a senior author and principal investigator of the study, Max Planck’s researcher. I am.

Genetic changes in Southern Iberia during the Bronze Age

Burial 38 female (right) and male (left) individuals in the village of La Almoloya (Pliego, Murcia). This is one of the most abundant burials found in the village of El Argar. Credit: © ASOME-UAB

Genomic data reveal some of the processes underlying this genetic change. Most of the genome indicates that Bronze Age individuals are a mixture of local Iberian copper ancestors and a small portion of ancestors arriving from mainland Europe, but the paternally inherited Y chromosome lineage. Shows complete turnover in relation to step-related movements, an ancestor found in other parts of Europe.

Abundant new data from the El Argar site also show that these two factors do not fully explain the genetic makeup of early Bronze Age societies. “The cause of this loss of the previous diversity of the Y chromosome is still very difficult to explain,” says UAB researcher and co-author of the study, Christina Riffete Erada.

“We also found signs of ancestors that traced to the central and eastern Mediterranean and West Asia. It is not possible to say exactly if these effects arrived at the same time as the grassland-related ancestors, but it is integrated. The emerging El Algar society, which shows that it has formed a part, proves its continued contact with these regions, “adds postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study, Vanessa Viral Bamuko. ..

When UAB researchers discovered the monumental fortress of the Argar settlement in La Bastida, Murcia, in 2013, they could connect with the Mediterranean to explain the originality of some architectural elements. Has already been pointed out. “Genetic studies are in favor of this hypothesis. Data show that this unknown Mediterranean connection was maintained for a long time until the end of the El Argar period around 1500 B.C.E.,” UAB’s study. And co-author Rafa Elmiko says of the study.

Social impact

“It is a matter of millions of dollars whether the genetic changes were caused by migrant groups from northern and central Iberia or by the worsening climate that affected the eastern Mediterranean around 2200 BC. “Professor Roberto Riche, co-principal scholar and senior author of the university, said. Barcelona Autonomous University. “It’s silly to think that everything can be explained by a simple one-factor model. The temporal coincidence is spectacular, but many factors may have played a role.”

Genetic changes in Southern Iberia during the Bronze Age

Chalcolithic mass burial of Camino del Molino (Carabaca de la Cruz, Murcia). A total of about 1300 people were buried between 2900 and 2300 BC. This image shows the last burial layer dated 2500-2300 BC, from which six individuals have been analyzed. Credits: Universidad de Murcia Fotografía de Francisco Ramos

One of these factors can be a pandemic, such as the early morphology of the plague. This has been proven in other parts of Europe at that time. Not directly found among individuals tested in southern Iberia, it may be the cause or impetus for the movement or disappearance of other groups in the region.

“In any case, the migration that began in the grasslands of Eastern Europe around 3000 B.C.E. is not a single migration event, but more than four centuries before reaching the Iberian Peninsula, and another 200 years before it appears today. We can conclude that it took. Murcia and Alicante, “Rish adds.

Archaeological records of the El Algar Group show a clear disconnection from previous Chalcolithic traditions. For example, burial rituals have been changed from communal burials to single and double burials within a complex. The elite burial also shows the formation of a strong social hierarchy. After testing their biological relevance, researchers found that on average, men were more closely associated with other people in the area. This indicates that the group is likely to be patrilineal. Such social organizations can explain the significant reduction in diversity of the Y lineage.

“We have observed similar patterns of social organization and increased stratification in other parts of Europe in the early Bronze Age. In fact, at about the same time, similar formations like the early states. It has characteristics. This suggests that it will follow a structured resumption or some form of reset. A crisis or unstable and highly dynamic era, ”Hark summarizes.

These institutions participate in the study, among other things: University of Adelaide, Private University of Donau, University of Basel, Fundación Vascapara la Ciencia, Universidad de Valencia, Cape Town University, Universidad de Alicante, Museo Arqueológicode Alicante, Museo Arqueológico Municipalde Lorca Medical School, University of Basel, Howard Hughes Medical Institute y Universidad Desevieria.


The prehistoric times of Central Europe were very dynamic


For more information:
Vanessa Villalba-Mouco et al, Genomic changes and social organization during the transition from the Chalcolithic to the Bronze Age in southern Iberia, Science Advances (2021). DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abi7038.. www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abi7038

Quote: Bronze Age Southern Iberia (November 17, 2021) genetic changes from https: //phys.org/news/2021-11-genetic-bronze-age-southern-iberia.html November 2021 Obtained on the 17th

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Genetic changes in Southern Iberia during the Bronze Age

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