February 14, 2007

Ancient Basque DNA

This is quite exciting, since it appears to be the first large-scale study of ancient Y chromosomes in the literature that I am aware of, with 33 male individuals studied, in addition to the mtDNA work. Here are the Y chromosome haplogroup assignments.

Current Anthropology Volume 48, Number 1

Influences of the European Kingdoms of Late Antiquity on the Basque Country
An Ancient-DNA Study

A. Alzualde

The Aldaieta cemetery (6th–7th century AD, Basque Country) provides an excellent opportunity for analysing the relationships between biology and culture. Culturally it presents material features whose origins lie in the Northern Pyrenean Frankish kingdom, while genetically it reveals greater affinity to the present-day populations of the northern Iberian Peninsula. This raises the question of the degree of influence exerted by the large European kingdoms that emerged after the fall of the Roman Empire over the populations located on the fringes of their expansion. An analysis of the genetic constitution, both patrilineal (Y-chromosome) and matrilineal (mitochondrial DNA), of the individuals buried in the cemetery, together with demographic and cultural data, points to a stratified or hierarchical society in which certain lineages were linked to family groups of higher social and/or economic status. This higher status, which seems to have been transmitted through family members, may have been attained by individuals who were involved in military activities with the Frankish army. It may be suggested that the major European kingdoms of Late Antiquity had not only a cultural influence but also some influence on the biosocial behaviour of the populations located on their peripheries.


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