Bronze Age Iberia received fewer Steppe invaders than the rest of Europe


Share post:

The genomes of individuals who lived on the Iberian Peninsula in the Bronze Age had minor genetic input from Steppe invaders, suggesting that these migrations played a smaller role in the genetic makeup and culture of Iberian people, compared to other parts of Europe. Daniel Bradley and Rui Martiniano of Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland, and Ana Maria Silva of University of Coimbra, Portugal, report these findings in PLOS Genetics.

Bronze Age Iberia received fewer Steppe invaders than the rest of Europe
Archaeological remains of individual MC337 excavated from the site of Hipogeu de Monte Canelas I, Portugal, and 
analysed by the archaeologist Rui Parreira and the anthropologist Ana Maria Silva [Credit: Rui Parreira]

Between the Middle Neolithic (4200-3500 BC) and the Middle Bronze Age (1740-1430 BC), Central and Northern Europe received a massive influx of people from the Steppe regions of Eastern Europe and Asia. Archaeological digs in Iberia have uncovered changes in culture and funeral rituals during this time, but no one had looked at the genetic impact of these migrations in this part of Europe. Researchers sequenced the genomes of 14 individuals who lived in Portugal during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and compared them to other ancient and modern genomes.

In contrast with other parts of Europe, they detected only subtle genetic changes between the Portuguese Neolithic and Bronze Age samples resulting from small-scale migration. However, these changes are more pronounced on the paternal lineage.

“It was surprising to observe such a striking Y chromosome discontinuity between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, such as would be consistent with a predominantly male-mediated genetic influx” says first author Rui Martiniano. Researchers also estimated height from the samples, based on relevant DNA sequences, and found that genetic input from Neolithic migrants decreased the height of Europeans, which subsequently increased steadily through later generations.

The study finds that migration into the Iberian Peninsula occurred on a much smaller scale compared to the Steppe invasions in Northern, Central and Northwestern Europe, which likely has implications for the spread of language, culture and technology. These findings may provide an explanation for why Iberia harbors a pre-Indo-European language, called Euskera, spoken in the Basque region along the border of Spain and France. It has been suggested that Indo-European spread with migrations through Europe from the Steppe heartland; a model that fits these results.

Daniel Bradley says “Unlike further north, a mix of earlier tongues and Indo-European languages persist until the dawn of Iberian history, a pattern that resonates with the real but limited influx of migrants around the Bronze Age.”

Source: PLOS [July 27, 2017]


  1. And yet R1b M269 ydna predominates among the Basque people, as well as along the southern Atlantic coastal areas from Eire through Britain and Brittany. It would appear then that R1b M269 occurs in the region independently of the Indo-European culture, and that the majority of ydna in the region indicates that the population is largely of pre-IE culture, no?



Related articles

2014 excavations at Azoria concluded

Archaeologists from USA and Greece are working in the area of Kavousi, on the island of Crete, to...

New Polish archaeological project in Jordan

Scientists from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University are searching for traces of human presence from...

2,200-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscription found on Samanamalai

A Tamil-Brahmi inscription that pushes back the association of Samanamalai (“Jaina Hill”), 15 km from Madurai, with Jainism...

Young star rebels against its parent cloud

Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 has captured this image of a giant cloud of hydrogen gas illuminated by...

Archaeologists to study Kurdish region in north Iraq

After nearly a century away, Harvard archaeology has returned to Iraq.Jason Ur, the John L. Loeb Associate Professor...

Ancient remains stolen in Mexico

One of the first humans to inhabit the Americas has been stolen – and archaeologists want it back....

New Horizons returns first of the best images of Pluto

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first in a series of the sharpest views of Pluto...

More on Saudis find evidence of early horse domestication

Saudi officials say archaeologists have begun excavating a site that suggests horses were domesticated 9,000 years ago in...