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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal American Journal of Biological Anthropology
Page(s) 1 - 13
Title of proceedings American Journal of Biological Anthropology
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.24431

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Objectives: The analysis of ancient mitochondrial DNA from osteological remains has challenged previous conclusions drawn from the analysis of mitochondrial DNA from present populations, notably by revealing an absence of genetic continuity between the Neolithic and modern populations in Central Europe. Our study investigates how to reconcile these contradictions at themitochondrial level using amodeling approach. Materials and Methods: We used a spatially explicit computational framework to simulate ancient and modern DNA sequences under various evolutionary scenarios of post Neolithic demographic events and compared the genetic diversity of the simulated and observed mitochondrial sequences. We investigated which—if any—scenarios were able to reproduce statistics of genetic diversity similar to those observed, with a focus on the haplogroupN1a, associatedwith the spread of earlyNeolithic farmers. Results: Demographic fluctuations during the Neolithic transition or subsequent demographic collapses after this period, that is, due to epidemics such as plague, are not sufficient to explain the signal of population discontinuity detected on the mitochondrial DNA in Central Europe. Only a scenario involving a substantial genetic input due to the arrival of migrants after the Neolithic transition, possibly during the Bronze Age, is compatible with observed patterns of genetic diversity. Discussion: Our results corroborate paleogenomic studies, since out of the alternative hypotheses tested, the best one that was able to recover observed patterns of mitochondrial diversity in modern and ancient Central European populations was one were immigration of populations from the Pontic steppes during the Bronze Age was explicitly simulated.