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Genetics: Bronze Age male dispersal in Europe

Nature Communications

May 20, 2015

The modern population of Europe was fuelled by a widespread male-specific expansion during the Bronze Age, suggests a study published in Nature Communications. The study helps to shed light on the origins of modern Europeans and focuses interest on the social structure of Bronze Age Europe.

The origins and antiquity of the modern European population are hotly debated, with the relative contribution of Neolithic farmers and Paleolithic hunter-gatherers undetermined. Now, Chiara Batini and colleagues sequence part of the male-specific region of the Y chromosome of 17 European and Middle Eastern populations to reveal that Europe underwent a recent and rapid continent-wide demographic expansion that occurred after Neolithic times. Specifically, patrilineages (groups of descendants traced through the paternal line) show an expansion in the Bronze Age, starting somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago.

The Early Bronze Age was a time of rapid and widespread change characterised by changes in burial practices, the spread of horse-riding and the developments in weaponry. Male-driven social selection linked with these practices could, the authors suggest, have led to some of the patterns observed but ancient DNA studies are required to clarify this.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms8152

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