I have a feeling that this generally underrated phenomenon will become much less underrated in the near future, and might even be recognized as a major factor in the formation of the modern European gene pool.
Ancient human mobility at the individual level is conventionally studied by the diverse application of suitable techniques (e.g. aDNA, radiogenic strontium isotopes, as well as oxygen and lead isotopes) to either hard and/or soft tissues. However, the limited preservation of coexisting hard and soft human tissues hampers the possibilities of investigating high-resolution diachronic mobility periods in the life of a single individual. Here, we present the results of a multidisciplinary study of an exceptionally well preserved circa 3.400-year old Danish Bronze Age female find, known as the Egtved Girl. We applied biomolecular, biochemical and geochemical analyses to reconstruct her mobility and diet. We demonstrate that she originated from a place outside present day Denmark (the island of Bornholm excluded), and that she travelled back and forth over large distances during the final months of her life, while consuming a terrestrial diet with intervals of reduced protein intake. We also provide evidence that all her garments were made of non-locally produced wool. Our study advocates the huge potential of combining biomolecular and biogeochemical provenance tracer analyses to hard and soft tissues of a single ancient individual for the reconstruction of highresolution human mobility.
Frei, K.M. et al. Tracing the dynamic life story of a Bronze Age Female. Sci. Rep. 5, 10431; doi: 10.1038/srep10431 (2015).
At the transition from the third to the second millennium BC, the introduction of bronze for the manufacture of tools, weapons and personal ornaments marked a major step in European prehistory. Trade of the metal raw materials and manufactured goods required regular and organized contacts among communities. On the other hand, local population continuity was a prerequisite for the accumulation of wealth, the establishment of enduring social differentiation, and the formation of regional elites.
The archeological record in the Lech Valley in southern Bavaria, Germany, shows a rapid and gapless transition from the Late Neolithic Bell Beaker Phenomenon to the Early Bronze Age. To investigate social and demographic changes associated with the appropriation of the bronze technology, we studied nearly eighty individuals from six burial sites in the region with respect to their maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).
The results indicate both local genetic continuity spanning the cultural transition, and, following the onset of the Early Bronze Age, a major influx of mtDNA types previously not found in this region. Integrating stable isotope data with the genetic data reveals a picture of a patrilocal society with remarkable mobility in women. While crucial for understanding the change of local demographics, these findings also have implications for the spread of major technological and societal changes across Europe at the beginning of the Bronze Age.
Mittnik et al., Ancient DNA reveals patterns of residential continuity and mobility at the onset of the Central European Bronze Age, Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE) 2015 abstract