January 15, 2013

Ancient mtDNA from Santimamiñe Cave

I see press releases and news stories on this cave from time to time, but I haven't actually located any published studies. If anyone is aware of more information, feel free to leave a comment.

Genetic research reveals that current population of Urdaibai probably descended from cave dwellers at Santimamiñe

The comparison of DNA extracted from a Homo sapiens who inhabited the Santimamine Cave (in the Basque province of Biscay) some 4,000 years ago, and from 6 other bone remains found in the same cave, with the DNA of 158 persons currently living in the surrounding Urdaibai region, has shown that current individuals have maternal lineages very similar to the archaeological remains. The findings enable putting forward the hypothesis that the current population is descended from the ancient denizens of the Santimamine Cave. 
The research received funding from the Department of Culture of the Provincial Government of Bizkaia, as well as from the Urdaibai District Authority. Once the research in Urdabai is concluded, it is hoped that, shortly, it will be extended to other regions of the Basque Country, using new studies of funerary sites from the same period and from other eras (the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, etc.) thus enabling extending the knowledge we currently have on the special characteristics of the Basque population. This populational group has sparked enormous scientific interest for its distinctive characteristics regarding the preservation of its pre-Indo-European language and its relative isolation from the influence of other peoples and cultures.

1 comment:

andrew said...

The question that this doesn't resolve is whether the Basque ethnogenesis took place in the Bronze Age, the Copper Age, the early Neolithic, or sometime in the Upper Paleolithic as indigeneous peoples of Iberia.

I have made the case that Basque ethnogenesis coincides with and has its source in the Bell-Beaker culture. Bell Beaker starts elsewhere in Iberia and only later arrives in Basque Country, from France, but elsewhere it succumbs to successive outside Indo-European Urnfield, Celtic and Roman influences. In my view, Bell Beaker which was part of a cultural tradition preserved most completely in the Basque today, is also the main source of Y-DNA haplogroup R1b in Western and Northern Europe - i.e. Bell Beaker involved a major demic component, particularly but not entirely on the paternal side.

The most recent result is not inconsistent with that scenario since 2000 BCE is very close to the end of the Bell Beaker era. It does rule out any possible later date for Basque ethnogenesis.

But, it doesn't distinguish between a scenario that sees Bell Beaker as a source of major demographic change in Western Europe including Basque country, and an alternative scenario in which Basque culture (and R1b) is either the indigeneous culture of that region back to the LGM refugia or before, or has more remote historical origins than the Bell Beaker era (e.g. Epipaleolithic, or early Neolithic).