A comprehensive genomic history of the so-called “Southern Arc,” a region spanning southeastern Europe and Western Asia and long considered to be the “cradle of Western civilization,” is presented across three new scientific studies by Iosif Lazaridis, David Reich, and colleagues.
In the analysis, which examined newly sequenced ancient DNA from more than 700 individuals across the region, a complex population history is revealed from the earliest farming cultures to post-Medieval times. Until relatively recently, much of the ancient history of the Southern Arc – stories concerning its people and populations – have been told through archaeological data and the thousands of years of historical accounts and texts from the region. However, innovations in sequencing ancient DNA have provided a new source of historical information.
Using ancient DNA from the remains of 777 humans, Lazaridis et al., in three separate studies, build a detailed genomic history of the Southern Arc from the Neolithic (~10,000 BCE) to the Ottoman period (~1700 CE). The findings provide an account of complex migrations and population interactions that have shaped the region for thousands of years. The studies suggest that the earlier reliance on modern population history and ancient writings and art has provided an inaccurate picture of early Indo-European cultures.
In the first study, “The genetic history of the Southern Arc: a bridge between West Asia and Europe,” the new dataset is presented. It also offers an analysis that focuses on the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages (roughly 5000 to 1000 BCE). This analysis revealed large genetic exchanges between the Eurasian Steppe and the Southern Arc and provides new insights into the formation of the Yamnaya steppe pastoralists and the origin of Indo-European language.
“Ancient DNA from Mesopotamia suggests distinct Pre-Pottery and Pottery Neolithic migrations into Anatolia,” the second study, presents the first ancient DNA from Pre-Pottery Neolithic Mesopotamia from the epicenter of the region’s Neolithic Revolution. The findings indicate that the transition between Pre-Pottery and Pottery Neolithic phases of Neolithic Anatolia was associated with two distinct pulses of migration from the Fertile Crescent heartland.
The third study, “A genetic probe into the ancient and medieval history of Southern Europe and West Asia,” focuses on ancient DNA analysis during the period of recorded history in the Southern Arc. It also elucidates the not-well-understood demographics and geographic origins of groups like the Myceneans, Urartians, and Romans.
“The studies by Lazaridis et al. represent an important milestone for ancient genomic research, providing a rich dataset and diverse observations that will drive the next iteration of interpretations of the human history of West Eurasia,” write Benjamin Arbuckle and Zoe Schwandt in a related Perspective. Although the authors note that Lazaridis et al. have produced an “astounding dataset, unimaginable in its scale just a decade ago,” Arbuckle and Schwandt highlight the challenges and limitations of the interpretations, suggesting that many of the narratives explored across the three studies reflect a Eurocentric worldview.
For more on this research, see Vast Genetic Study Reveals Insights Into Migration Patterns and Language Development.
- “The genetic history of the Southern Arc: A bridge between West Asia and Europe” by Iosif Lazaridis, Songül Alpaslan-Roodenberg, Ayse Acar, Aysen Açikkol, Anagnostis Agelarakis, Levon Aghikyan, Ugur Akyüz, Desislava Andreeva, Gojko Andrijaševic, Dragana Antonovic, Ian Armit, Alper Atmaca, Pavel Avetisyan, Ahmet Ihsan Aytek, Krum Bacvarov, Ruben Badalyan, Stefan Bakardzhiev, Jacqueline Balen, Lorenc Bejko, Rebecca Bernardos, Andreas Bertsatos, Hanifi Biber, Ahmet Bilir, Mario Bodružic, Michelle Bonogofsky, Clive Bonsall, Dušan Boric, Nikola Borovinic, Guillermo Bravo Morante, Katharina Buttinger, Kim Callan, Francesca Candilio, Mario Caric, Olivia Cheronet, Stefan Chohadzhiev, Maria-Eleni Chovalopoulou, Stella Chryssoulaki, Ion Ciobanu, Natalija Condic, Mihai Constantinescu, Emanuela Cristiani, Brendan J. Culleton, Elizabeth Curtis, Jack Davis, Tatiana I. Demcenco, Valentin Dergachev, Zafer Derin, Sylvia Deskaj, Seda Devejyan, Vojislav Djordjevic, Kellie Sara Duffett Carlson, Laurie R. Eccles, Nedko Elenski, Atilla Engin, Nihat Erdogan, Sabiha Erir-Pazarci, Daniel M. Fernandes, Matthew Ferry, Suzanne Freilich, Alin Frînculeasa, Michael L. Galaty, Beatriz Gamarra, Boris Gasparyan, Bisserka Gaydarska, Elif Genç, Timur Gültekin, Serkan Gündüz, Tamás Hajdu, Volker Heyd, Suren Hobosyan, Nelli Hovhannisyan, Iliya Iliev, Lora Iliev, Stanislav Iliev, Ilkay Ivgin, Ivor Jankovic, Lence Jovanova, Panagiotis Karkanas, Berna Kavaz-Kindigili, Esra Hilal Kaya, Denise Keating, Douglas J. Kennett, Seda Deniz Kesici, Anahit Khudaverdyan, Krisztián Kiss, Sinan Kiliç, Paul Klostermann, Sinem Kostak Boca Negra Valdes, Saša Kovacevic, Marta Krenz-Niedbala, Maja Krznaric Škrivanko, Rovena Kurti, Pasko Kuzman, Ann Marie Lawson, Catalin Lazar, Krassimir Leshtakov, Thomas E. Levy, Ioannis Liritzis, Kirsi O. Lorentz, Sylwia Lukasik, Matthew Mah, Swapan Mallick, Kirsten Mandl, Kristine Martirosyan-Olshansky, Roger Matthews, Wendy Matthews, Kathleen McSweeney, Varduhi Melikyan, Adam Micco, Megan Michel, Lidija Milašinovic, Alissa Mittnik, Janet M. Monge, Georgi Nekhrizov, Rebecca Nicholls, Alexey G. Nikitin, Vassil Nikolov, Mario Novak, Iñigo Olalde, Jonas Oppenheimer, Anna Osterholtz, Celal Özdemir, Kadir Toykan Özdogan, Nurettin Öztürk, Nikos Papadimitriou, Niki Papakonstantinou, Anastasia Papathanasiou, Lujana Paraman, Evgeny G. Paskary, Nick Patterson, Ilian Petrakiev, Levon Petrosyan, Vanya Petrova, Anna Philippa-Touchais, Ashot Piliposyan, Nada Pocuca Kuzman, Hrvoje Potrebica, Bianca Preda-Balanica, Zrinka Premužic, T. Douglas Price, Lijun Qiu, Siniša Radovic, Kamal Raeuf Aziz, Petra Rajic Šikanjic, Kamal Rasheed Raheem, Sergei Razumov, Amy Richardson, Jacob Roodenberg, Rudenc Ruka, Victoria Russeva, Mustafa Sahin, Aysegül Sarbak, Emre Savas, Constanze Schattke, Lynne Schepartz, Tayfun Selçuk, Ayla Sevim-Erol, Michel Shamoon-Pour, Henry M. Shephard, Athanasios Sideris, Angela Simalcsik, Hakob Simonyan, Vitalij Sinika, Kendra Sirak, Ghenadie Sirbu, Mario Šlaus, Andrei Soficaru, Bilal Sögüt, Arkadiusz Soltysiak, Çilem Sönmez-Sözer, Maria Stathi, Martin Steskal, Kristin Stewardson, Sharon Stocker, Fadime Suata-Alpaslan, Alexander Suvorov, Anna Szécsényi-Nagy, Tamás Szeniczey, Nikolai Telnov, Strahil Temov, Nadezhda Todorova, Ulsi Tota, Gilles Touchais, Sevi Triantaphyllou, Atila Türker, Marina Ugarkovic, Todor Valchev, Fanica Veljanovska, Zlatko Videvski, Cristian Virag, Anna Wagner, Sam Walsh, Piotr Wlodarczak, J. Noah Workman, Aram Yardumian, Evgenii Yarovoy, Alper Yener Yavuz, Hakan Yilmaz, Fatma Zalzala, Anna Zettl, Zhao Zhang, Rafet Çavusoglu, Nadin Rohland, Ron Pinhasi and David Reich, 26 August 2022, Science.
- “A genetic probe into the ancient and medieval history of Southern Europe and West Asia” by David Reich, et al., 25 August 2022, Science.
- “Ancient DNA from Mesopotamia suggests distinct Pre-Pottery and Pottery Neolithic migrations into Anatolia” by David Reich, et al., 25 August 2022, Science.