Molecular Ecology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05361.x
Ancient DNA from an Early Neolithic Iberian population supports a pioneer colonization by first farmers
C. GAMBA et al.
The Neolithic transition has been widely debated particularly regarding the extent to which this revolution implied a demographic expansion from the Near East. We attempted to shed some light on this process in northeastern Iberia by combining ancient DNA (aDNA) data from Early Neolithic settlers and published DNA data from Middle Neolithic and modern samples from the same region. We successfully extracted and amplified mitochondrial DNA from 13 human specimens, found at three archaeological sites dated back to the Cardial culture in the Early Neolithic (Can Sadurní and Chaves) and to the Late Early Neolithic (Sant Pau del Camp). We found that haplogroups with a low frequency in modern populations—N* and X1—are found at higher frequencies in our Early Neolithic population (∼31%). Genetic differentiation between Early and Middle Neolithic populations was significant (FST∼0.13, P less than 10−5), suggesting that genetic drift played an important role at this time. To improve our understanding of the Neolithic demographic processes, we used a Bayesian coalescence-based simulation approach to identify the most likely of three demographic scenarios that might explain the genetic data. The three scenarios were chosen to reflect archaeological knowledge and previous genetic studies using similar inferential approaches. We found that models that ignore population structure, as previously used in aDNA studies, are unlikely to explain the data. Our results are compatible with a pioneer colonization of northeastern Iberia at the Early Neolithic characterized by the arrival of small genetically distinctive groups, showing cultural and genetic connections with the Near East.