Genetic variation in prehistoric Sardinia
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We sampled teeth from 53 ancient Sardinian (Nuragic) individuals who lived in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age, between 3,430 and 2,700 years ago. After eliminating the samples that, in preliminary biochemical tests, did not show a high probability to yield reproducible results, we obtained 23 sequences of the mitochondrial DNA control region, which were associated to haplogroups by comparison with a dataset of modern sequences. The Nuragic samples show a remarkably low genetic diversity, comparable to that observed in ancient Iberians, but much lower than among the Etruscans. Most of these sequences have exact matches in two modern Sardinian populations, supporting a clear genealogical continuity from the Late Bronze Age up to current times. The Nuragic populations appear to be part of a large and geographically unstructured cluster of modern European populations, thus making it difficult to infer their evolutionary relationships. However, the low levels of genetic diversity, both within and among ancient samples, as opposed to the sharp differences among modern Sardinian samples, support the hypothesis of the expansion of a small group of maternally related individuals, and of comparatively recent differentiation of the Sardinian gene pools.
KeywordsModern Population Modern Sample Ancient Sample Sardinian Population Cambridge Reference Sequence
This paper was supported by funds from the Italian Ministry of the Universities (PRIN 2006) and by funds from the Universities of Ferrara and Florence. We thank Antonio Torroni for a thorough preliminary discussion of the results of this study, and three anonymous referees for several useful suggestions.
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