The Homo sapiens deposited at El Mirador Cave, in Atapuerca, about 4500 years ago, had genetic affinities with the Near East and Germany

According to the mitochondrial DNA analysis, that for the first time, has been carried out on the fossil remains found at this site

The work was done by the researcher team lead by Carles Lalueza-Fox, from UPF, with the participation of the IPHES and now published in the journal PLOS ONE

During the Middle and Final Neolithic there was a common genetic signal in Central and Western Europe, although in the Chalcolithic the scene becomes much more heterogeneous

CAPTIONS CASTELLANO – CATALÀ – PLOS ONE OPEN ACCESS

Around 4,760 and 4,200 years the Mirador Cave, in Atapuerca (Burgos), functioned as a burial site, where at least 23 individuals of the species Homo sapiens were deposited. In 19 of them, the mitochondrial DNA was extracted in order to know where they came from and with who were they genetically related, among other issues. A recent study published in the PLOS ONE journal brings some light to this question. According to the results, those specimens have genetic affinities with populations in the Middle East and Germany.

This is the first DNA analysis performed on the remains discovered in El Mirador. The research was conducted as part of a wider work on the genetic composition of the European populations contemporaries to the Bell-Beaker culture, although Homo sapiens from this cave did not belong to this technical tradition, as they did not manufactured or used the same ceramic type.

“This research shows that the Chalcolithic people at El Mirador has affinities with the Near East groups and temporary fits in the Middle and Final Neolithic populations of Germany, as the Rossen Salzmünde and Balberge cultures, but has no relationship with the contemporary Bell-Beaker culture”, explain Marina Lozano, IPHES researcher, which is among the signatories of the article, together with Josep Maria Verges, also an archaeologist at the Institute.

Thus, it´s confirmed that during the Middle and Final Neolithic there was a common genetic signal in Central and Western Europe, but throughout the Chalcolithic the scene becomes much more heterogeneous with the presence of more groups.

The traditional hypothesis indicates that the Bell-Beaker culture developed in the European Atlantic coast and spread from there to the rest of Europe. The discovery of ancient sites in Portugal with the presence of ceramic from that culture, suggests its origin in the Tagus River area.

The socioeconomic basis of this populations was livestock (herds of goats and sheeps), the cereals production (wheat and barley, and some legumes) and occasionally the animal part of the diet was complemented by hunting.

Bibliographic reference

“Mitochondrial DNA from El Mirador cave (Atapuerca, Spain) Reveal the Heterogeneity of Chalcolithic Population” Gomez-Sanchez et al. PLOS ONE (2014)

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