Early Alpine occupation backdates westward human migration in Late Glacial Europe


Eugenio Bortolini, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
Luca Pagani, Università degli Studi di Padova
Gregorio Oxilia, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
Cosimo Posth, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Federica Fontana, University of Ferrara
Federica Badino, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
Tina Saupe, Tartu Ülikooli Genoomika Instituut
Francesco Montinaro, Tartu Ülikooli Genoomika Instituut
Davide Margaritora, University of Ferrara
Matteo Romandini, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
Federico Lugli, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
Andrea Papini, Dentist's Surgery
Marco Boggioni, Dentist's Surgery
Nicola Perrini, Centro di Odontoiatria e Stomatologia
Antonio Oxilia, General surgeon
Riccardo Aiese Cigliano, Sequentia Biotech SL
Rosa Barcelona, Sequentia Biotech SL
Davide Visentin, CSIC - Institucion Mila y Fontanals (IMF)
Nicolò Fasser, University of Ferrara
Simona Arrighi, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
Carla Figus, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
Giulia Marciani, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
Sara Silvestrini, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna
Federico Bernardini, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia
Jessica C. Menghi Sartorio, University of Ferrara
Luca Fiorenza, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
Jacopo Moggi Cecchi, Università degli Studi di Firenze
Claudio Tuniz, Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics
Toomas Kivisild, Tartu Ülikooli Genoomika Instituut
Fernando Gianfrancesco, Institute of Genetics and Biophysics Adriano Buzzati Traverso

Publication Name

Current Biology


Before the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ∼16.5 ka ago)1 set in motion major shifts in human culture and population structure,2 a consistent change in lithic technology, material culture, settlement pattern, and adaptive strategies is recorded in Southern Europe at ∼18–17 ka ago. In this time frame, the landscape of Northeastern Italy changed considerably, and the retreat of glaciers allowed hunter-gatherers to gradually recolonize the Alps.3–6 Change within this renewed cultural frame (i.e., during the Late Epigravettian phase) is currently associated with migrations favored by warmer climate linked to the Bølling-Allerød onset (14.7 ka ago),7–11 which replaced earlier genetic lineages with ancestry found in an individual who lived ∼14 ka ago at Riparo Villabruna, Italy, and shared among different contexts (Villabruna Cluster).9 Nevertheless, these dynamics and their chronology are still far from being disentangled due to fragmentary evidence for long-distance interactions across Europe.12 Here, we generate new genomic data from a human mandible uncovered at Riparo Tagliente (Veneto, Italy), which we directly dated to 16,980–16,510 cal BP (2σ). This individual, affected by focal osseous dysplasia, is genetically affine to the Villabruna Cluster. Our results therefore backdate by at least 3 ka the diffusion in Southern Europe of a genetic component linked to Balkan/Anatolian refugia, previously believed to have spread during the later Bølling/Allerød event. In light of the new genetic evidence, this population replacement chronologically coincides with the very emergence of major cultural transitions in Southern and Western Europe.

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Funding Sponsor

Horizon 2020 Framework Programme



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