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The Bronze Age in the Iberian Peninsula, told by the genes

Madrid, Nov 17 (EFE) .- 4,500 years ago, around 2500 BC, the Chalcolithic began the transition to the Bronze Age. It was a time of great social, demographic and political changes in Eurasia but also in the Iberian Peninsula, where one of the first complex societies in Europe emerged, that of El Argar.

Developed in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula, in the area now occupied by the provinces of Murcia and Alicante, among others, between 2200 and 1500 BC El Argar was a ‘state society’ of Europe, socially complex and highly hierarchical -as the dynasties of Egypt or Babylon-, and a unique culture in Europe where the populations were still governed by an incipient social organization and the burials were collective, outside the town and in megalithic groups.

The El Argar society, however, built their settlements on the tops of the hills, defensive places that had structures to store food and water, palaces for the elite, and individual (or pair) burials within the enclosure, in addition to ceramics, weapons and objects of gold, silver and bronze completely differentiated.

To analyze this transition period from the genetic point of view, a research team led by Vanessa Villalba-Mouco, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of the History of Humanity, from Germany, and from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, in Spain, studied the genome of 136 Iberian individuals who lived between 3000 and 1500 BC

The study has also used previously published genomes from the Iberian Peninsula, thus, in total, it includes data from almost 300 prehistoric individuals who lived through the transition from the Copper to the Bronze Age. The results are published today in the journal Science Advances.

The analysis revealed that individuals from the Copper Age (Chalcolithic) still conserved the Iberian lineage, while those from the Bronze Age, in 2200 BC, already had the Central European genetic component that today still predominates in our genomes. .

“We can conclude that the population movement that emerged in the steppe areas of eastern Europe around 3000 BC took more than four centuries to reach the Iberian Peninsula and another 200 years to cross it from the north to present-day Murcia and Alicante,” he explains. Roberto Risch, researcher at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (eastern Spain) and co-author of the study.

The study also revealed that along with the Central European genetic fingerprint, the individuals from El Argar had a third genetic component from the Mediterranean “which is not found in the rest of the Iberian Peninsula,” Villalba-Mouco explained to Efe.

“One of the individuals analyzed from the Zapatería site, in Lorca (Murcia), is clearly non-local, with North African, Central Mediterranean and Central European ancestry, that is, a man whose ancestry is different from that of the rest of the population, which It shows that the El Argar society incorporated individuals from these regions, perhaps motivated by commercial relationships, “the researcher details.

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