Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Through 40.000 Years of Human Presence in Southern Europe: The Italian Case Study

Version 1 : Received: 3 June 2021 / Approved: 4 June 2021 / Online: 4 June 2021 (08:18:09 CEST)

How to cite: Aneli, S.; Caldon, M.; Saupe, T.; Montinaro, F.; Pagani, L. Through 40.000 Years of Human Presence in Southern Europe: The Italian Case Study. Preprints 2021, 2021060124 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202106.0124.v1). Aneli, S.; Caldon, M.; Saupe, T.; Montinaro, F.; Pagani, L. Through 40.000 Years of Human Presence in Southern Europe: The Italian Case Study. Preprints 2021, 2021060124 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202106.0124.v1).

Abstract

The Italian Peninsula, a natural pier across the Mediterranean Sea, witnessed intricate population events since the very beginning of human occupation in Europe. In the last few years, an increasing number of modern and ancient genomes from the area has been published by the international research community. This genomic perspective started unveiling the relevance of Italy to understand the post-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) re-peopling of Europe, the earlier phase of the Neolithic westward migrations, and its linking role between Eastern and Western Mediterranean areas after the Iron Age. However many open questions are still waiting for more data to be addressed in full. With this review, we summarize the current knowledge emerging from the available ancient Italian individuals and, by re-analysing them all at once, we try to shed light on the avenues future research in the area should cover. In particular, open questions concern i) the fate of pre-Villabruna Europeans and to what extent their genomic components were absorbed by the post-LGM hunter-gatherers; ii) the role of Sicily and Sardinia before LGM; iii) to what degree the documented genetic structure within the Early Neolithic settlers can be described as two separate migrations; iv) what are the population events behind the marked presence of an Iranian Neolithic-like component in Bronze Age and Iron Age Italian and Southern European samples.

Keywords

ancient genomes; peopling of Italy; human migrations

Subject

LIFE SCIENCES, Biochemistry

Comments (4)

Comment 1
Received: 9 June 2021
Commenter: Riccardo V.
The commenter has declared there is no conflict of interests.
Comment: There is a complete lack of Bronze Age samples in Italy, they are still too few to draw conclusions. For the Iron Age there is the lack of samples for almost all the ethnic groups of the pre-Roman Italy, except the autosomal DNA of some Etruscans and Latins that however remain not taken into account. It is not true that where the Etruscans came from is still uncertain, the Etruscans are attested above all in Italy. The hypothesis of a multi-step origin of the Etruscans is untenable, proposed by an old study whose arguments were extremely weak and generic, and, last but not least, not based on ancient DNA that, instead, suggests completely different conclusions and scenario. There is no single archaeological trace of "A proto-Etruscan population, born in a south-eastern region of the Middle East, would have migrated in the Caucasus, then in Lydia and finally arrived in central Italy". 

In Figure 1 there are two samples of Continental_Italy that join the Hungarian and Croat cluster. They are clearly not fully Italian but they most likely belong to some Germanic or Slavic linguistic minority in the northern Italian Alps. No northern Italian can end up there. Other northern Italian individuals look like might be from the language minorities as well. Why were samples of linguistic minorities used to represent northern Italy? These are most likely the samples released from the 2019 study, but the samples released were very incomplete with some Italian regions missing.

Among the samples from the Lombard cemetery of Collegno, Northern Italy, were not only those showing genetic affinities with Bronze Age people from central and eastern Europe, but also those plotting much further south, with southern Italy. This is a fact that cannot be ignored.

Continental Italy, peninsular Italy, insular Italy are geographical concepts, you really struggle to understand their genetic significance.
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Comment 2
Received: 9 June 2021
Commenter: Riccardo V.
The commenter has declared there is no conflict of interests.
Comment: There is a complete lack of Bronze Age samples in Italy, they are still too few to draw conclusions. For the Iron Age there is the lack of samples for almost all the ethnic groups of the pre-Roman Italy, except the autosomal DNA of some Etruscans and Latins that however remain not taken into account. It is not true that where the Etruscans came from is still uncertain, the Etruscans are attested above all in Italy. The hypothesis of a multi-step origin of the Etruscans is untenable, proposed by an old study whose arguments were extremely weak and generic, and, last but not least, not based on ancient DNA that, instead, suggests completely different conclusions and scenario. There is no single archaeological trace of "A proto-Etruscan population, born in a south-eastern region of the Middle East, would have migrated in the Caucasus, then in Lydia and finally arrived in central Italy". 

In Figure 1 there are two samples of Continental_Italy that join the Hungarian and Croat cluster. They are clearly not fully Italian but they most likely belong to some Germanic or Slavic linguistic minority in the northern Italian Alps. No northern Italian can end up there. Other northern Italian individuals look like might be from the language minorities as well. Why were samples of linguistic minorities used to represent northern Italy? These are most likely the samples released from the 2019 study, but the samples released were very incomplete with some Italian regions missing.

Among the samples from the Lombard cemetery of Collegno, Northern Italy, were not only those showing genetic affinities with Bronze Age people from central and eastern Europe, but also those plotting much further south, with southern Italy. This is a fact that cannot be ignored.

Continental Italy, peninsular Italy, insular Italy are geographical concepts, you really struggle to understand their genetic significance.
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Comment 3
Received: 9 June 2021
Commenter: Bernard Sécher
The commenter has declared there is no conflict of interests.
Comment: Hello,

I read your paper with great interests.

You say in your paper that Iberian Bell Beakers were genetically indistinguishable from the people who lived there earlier. However the Olalde paper you cited: The Beaker phenomenon and the genomic transformation of northwest Europe tells us that 25% of Iberian Bell Beakers have steppe ancestry.

See also the following figure from the Olalde paper:


Best regards
Bernard
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Comment 4
Received: 20 August 2021
Commenter: Roberta Hofer
The commenter has declared there is no conflict of interests.
Comment: I find myself in agreement with the previous comments. Coming to the Iron Age, I cannot understand why the notion that the origin of the Etruscans is an open and controversial question is still being fuelled in 2021 in this way by some geneticists, ignoring what all other disciplines have written over the years on this subject, and deciding to side aprioristically with a thesis such as the Lydian origin, which is devoid of archaeological, historical, linguistic, anthropological and even genetic evidence. The Lydian origin at best can be considered a fringe theory, de facto it is the subject of pseudoscientific texts only. As we know the Lydian story originated around the fifth century BC in the Greek world, many centuries after the first archaeological evidence of the Etruscans in Italy, and like many other traditions invented at that time, it does not refer to true historical events. Nobody takes more seriously the Trojan origin of the Romans or the Paphlagonia origin of the Ancient Veneti, why instead with the Etruscans ancient myths demonstrated not true by all other disciplines are still taken seriously by genetics? It is not the 2014 Spanish study based on modern samples that may have brought new elements to the discussion, as what it proposes is based on a two-way model that can be used with many other modern Italian and European populations and it could support the Lydian origin of many other Iron Age Italian and European ethnic groups. It's not even an issue of the need for more samples, it's an issue of method. Moreover, the 2019 Stanford study on Ancient Rome, mentioned in the paper several times, found that there were significant migrations from the eastern Mediterranean into Italy during the Roman Imperial period, with small migrations occurring already in the Iron Age due to known contacts. So it seems quite clear that using modern samples to support hypotheses about migratory movements that occurred between the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age no longer makes much sense and it is a serious methodological error. The formation of Iron Age ethnic groups is more complex and nuanced than "bringing together genetic, archaeological, and linguistic data". In the case of the Etruscans, none of the evidence gathered over more than 100 years of study can support an eastern origins, much less as proposed by the 2014 Spanish study.
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