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Copper Age Iberians 'exported' their culture- but not their genes- all over Europe

Copper Age Iberians 'exported' their culture- but not their genes- all over Europe

The largest ever genomic study shows that the first Beaker expansion was one of cultural diffusion. A later migration of this culture from the Netherlands region accounted for the replacement of 90% of the population of Great Britain.


Prehistoric Iberians 'exported' their culture throughout Europe, reaching Great Britain, Sicily, Poland and all over central Europe in general. However, they did not export their genes. The Beaker culture, which probably originated in Iberia, left remains in those parts of the continent. However, that diffusion was not due to large migrations of populations that took this culture with them. These are the conclusions of an international study in which the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) was involved. Its findings, published in the journal Nature, indicate no evidence of any genetic outflow from Iberia to those areas has been discovered. “Therefore, the diffusion of the Beaker culture from Iberia is the first example of a culture being transmitted as an idea, basically due to a question of social prestige (since it was associated with the virtues of being virile and of being warriors), which is why it is adopted by other populations”, indicates researcher Carles Lalueza-Fox, from the IBE.

Between 4,700 and 4,400 years ago, a new type of bell-shaped beaker pottery was introduced throughout western and central Europe. For more than a century, archaeologists have been trying to determine whether the spread of this beaker pottery - and the (Beaker) culture associated with it - represented a large-scale migration or whether it was due simply to the exchange of new ideas. Now, this new study, which includes DNA data from 400 prehistoric skeletons collected from sites across Europe, resolves the debate of whether the spread was due to migrations or ideas, indicating that both arguments are correct. The findings show that the culture which produced these bell-shaped beakers extended from Iberia to central Europe without a significant movement of populations, although the Beaker culture would spread to other places through migrations at a later date.

The study, whose first author is the Spanish researcher Íñigo Olalde, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, shows that once the (Bell) Beaker culture reaches the centre of Europe (around Germany and its surrounding area), it expands backwards to other places, notably to the British Isles. Yet, in this case, it does represent a migration, replacing around 90% of the population with it. "That is to say, the Neolithic people who built Stonehenge (and who had a greater genetic similarity with Neolithic Iberians than with those from Central Europe) almost disappear and are replaced by the populations from the Beaker culture from the Netherlands and Germany. This replacement is almost absolute in terms of the Y chromosome, which is transmitted by the paternal line, indicating an extreme reproductive bias, and therefore a previously unheard of social dominance. The backward flow also reaches other places such as Italy (at least in the north) and Iberia. I believe it is possible that this is also associated with the expansion of the Celtic or Proto-Celtic languages," Mr. Lalueza-Fox points out.
Coordinated by researcher David Reich from Harvard University, the study was developed by an international team of 144 archaeologists and geneticists from institutions in Europe and the United States.

Reference article: Iñigo Olalde, Selina Brace, Morten E. Allentoft, Ian Armit, Kristian Kristiansen, Thomas Booth, Nadin Rohland, Swapan Mallick, Anna Szécsényi-Nagy, Alissa Mittnik, Eveline Altena, Mark Lipson, Iosif Lazaridis, Thomas K. Harper, Nick Patterson, Nasreen Broomandkhoshbacht, Yoan Diekmann, Zuzana Faltyskova, Daniel Fernandes, Matthew Ferry, Eadaoin Harney, Peter de Knijff, Megan Michel, Jonas Oppenheimer, Kristin Stewardson, Alistair Barclay, Kurt Werner Alt, Corina Liesau, Patricia Ríos, Concepción Blasco, Jorge Vega Miguel, Roberto Menduiña García, Azucena Avilés Fernández, Eszter Bánffy, Maria Bernabò-Brea, David Billoin, Clive Bonsall, Laura Bonsall, Tim Allen, Lindsey Büster, Sophie Carver, Laura Castells Navarro, Oliver E. Craig, Gordon T. Cook, Barry Cunliffe, Anthony Denaire, Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, Natasha Dodwell, Michal Ernée, Christopher Evans, Milan Kuchařík, Joan Francès Farré, Harry Fokkens, Chris Fowler, Michiel Gazenbeek, Rafael Garrido Pena, María Haber-Uriarte, Elżbieta Haduch, Gill Hey, Nick Jowett, Timothy Knowles, Ken Massy, Saskia Pfrengle, Philippe Lefranc, Olivier Lemercier, Arnaud Lefebvre, César Heras Martínez, Virginia Galera Olmo, Ana Bastida Ramírez, Joaquín Lomba Maurandi, Tona Majó, Jacqueline I. McKinley, Kathleen McSweeney, Balázs Gusztáv Mende, Alessandra Modi, Gabriella Kulcsár, Viktória Kiss, András Czene, Róbert Patay, Anna Endrődi, Kitti Köhler, Tamás Hajdu, Tamás Szeniczey, János Dani, Zsolt Bernert, Maya Hoole, Olivia Cheronet, Denise Keating, Petr Velemínský, Miroslav Dobeš, Francesca Candilio, Fraser Brown, Raúl Flores Fernández, Ana-Mercedes Herrero-Corral, Sebastiano Tusa, Emiliano Carnieri, Luigi Lentini, Antonella Valenti, Alessandro Zanini, Clive Waddington, Germán Delibes, Elisa Guerra-Doce, Benjamin Neil, Marcus Brittain, Mike Luke, Richard Mortimer, Jocelyne Desideri, Marie Besse, Günter Brücken, Mirosław Furmanek, Agata Hałuszko, Maksym Mackiewicz, Artur Rapiński, Stephany Leach, Ignacio Soriano, Katina T. Lillios, João Luís Cardoso, Michael Parker Pearson, Piotr Włodarczak, T. Douglas Price, Pilar Prieto, Pierre-Jérôme Rey, Roberto Risch, Manuel A. Rojo Guerra, Aurore Schmitt, Joël Serralongue, Ana Maria Silva, Václav Smrčka, Luc Vergnaud, João Zilhão, David Caramelli, Thomas Higham, Mark G. Thomas, Philipp W. Stockhammer, Douglas J. Kennett, Volker Heyd, Alison Sheridan, Karl-Göran Sjögren, Johannes Krause, Ron Pinhasi, Wolfgang Haak, Ian Barnes, Carles Lalueza-Fox, David Reich. The Beaker Phenomenon and the Genomic Transformation of Northwest Europe. Nature. Doi: 10.1038/nature25738