Migration and miscegenation of recent prehistory remain in the DNA of the French

Migration and miscegenation of recent prehistory remain in the DNA of the French

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It is not the first time thatgenomic analysis of ancient individuals in Europe reveal how migrations from the Middle East to the Iberian Peninsula have contributed to the current genetic landscape of society. But in each European region these events have had different characteristics due to geography, chronology or even the speed and scope of these processes of miscegenation.

In theFrance In modern times, this type of palaeogenomic study had not yet been performed with a large sample of ancient genomes from various archaeological sites. This has now been possible thanks to the ANCESTRA project, whose objective is to reconstruct the settlement process of France through the different waves of migration of the last millennia.

In this way, a team of French scientists, led by the Jacques Monod Institute of the University of Paris and the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS, for its acronym in French), has studied243 ancient genomes, from individuals from the Upper France region (north), the Great East and Occitania (southeast), over a period that spans 7,000 years, known as protohistory.

The results, published in the journalPNAS, show that recent French prehistory has experienced two waves of migration between 9,000 and 2,000 years ago. The first duringNeolithic, about 6,300 years ago, with the first farmers, and the second in theBronze Age, about 4,200 years ago.

"This study has made it possible to trace the genetic evolution of the populations that have lived in the current territory of France from 7,000 years BC to the end of the Iron Age, a century BC," he explains to SINCMélanie Pruvost, from the Jacques Monod Institute and from the joint research unit PACEA –of the University of Bordeaux and the CNRS– and principal investigator of the study.

During the period analyzed there were profound technological, cultural and social changes such as the invention of agriculture, sedentary lifestyle or the dominance of metallurgy. "All of this greatly changed our society, and in many cases, these changes were accompanied by population movements that have had a major impact on the current genetic landscape," adds Pruvost.

A miscegenation that lives on in the DNA of the French

The research thus reveals the presence of an ancestral component associated with the Magdalenian culture - hunter-gatherer populations that spread through France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland 15,000 years ago and lasted 8,000 years and is characterized by the lithic and bone industry - in the genomes of three individuals from the Mesolithic, the period that followed the Paleolithic 12,000 years ago.

"This shows that these populations were present at the end of the Paleolithic in regions further north than what had been confirmed up to now," the researcher emphasized to SINC.

Then there were two major migration events in Europe. The first farmers arrived in France about 8,000 years ago from Italy or central Europe, who were the distant descendants of the farming populations of Asia Minor (Anatolia), which today belongs to Turkey. “The latter later mixed with indigenous hunter-gatherers,” says Pruvost.

At the end of the Neolithic, some 4,500 years ago, the study shows that there was a significant genetic flow of individuals of ancestry in part ofranchers of thesteppe from Eastern Europe. All this crossbreeding between native hunter-gatherers and the first Neolithic migrants, who brought a lifestyle based on agriculture, persists today in the genome of the French.

These migrations have left a perennial imprint: the Y chromosome of most French men today bears the “signature” of the men of the steppes.

"Understanding the past events that gave rise to our society is important from a historical and archaeological point of view, but it also allows us to put into perspective the" national narrative "and the current problems linked to migration", confirms SINC Pruvost.

According to the research, like France and Europe it is also the result of successive waves of migrations and interbreeding between different populations for several thousand years. "Deep cultural changes have accompanied these demographic events and have allowed our societies to evolve and dominate new technologies", concludes the expert.


Samantha Brunel et al. "Ancient genomes from present-day France unveil 7,000 years of its demographic history” PNAS.
Via: Adeline Marcos in SINC.

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