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Andres Tennus

Doctoral defence: Tina Saupe “The genetic history of the Mediterranean before the common era: a focus on the Italian Peninsula”

On 26 August at 14:15 Tina Saupe will defend her doctoral thesis “The genetic history of the Mediterranean before the common era: a focus on the Italian Peninsula” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Gene Technology).

Supervisors:
Associate Professor Christiana Lyn Scheib, University of Tartu
Professor Mait Metspalu, University of Tartu
Associate Professor Toomas Kivisild, University of Tartu
Visiting Professor Luca Pagani, University of Tartu

Opponent:
Dr. Carina Schlebusch, Uppsala University (Sweden)

Summary
Numerous and varied genetic studies have given a new insight into our understanding of the human past. The human history of Eurasia includes multiple stages of habitation such as hunter-gatherers living in Western Eurasia during the Palaeolithic, the first contact between non-local people from the Levant and Anatolia with the introduction of agriculture and domestication to the local people during the Neolithic, and the arrival of ‘Steppe’ people from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe. Most of the studies have been focused on the wider spectrum of genetic changes in Eurasia and the connection with archaeological evidence and historical events. However, some areas of Eurasia are still understudied, and their exploration will add more knowledge to the open gaps in the human migration history. Therefore, this thesis focuses on the genetic and social structure-related changes of ancient human individuals from the Italian Peninsula between the last glacial maximum and ~2,000 years ago parallel with the beginning of the Roman Republic For the study, genome-wide data is generated from human remains excavated from several archaeological sites. This data is analysed in the context of previously published genome-wide data of Eurasia to study the genetic compositions and changes thereof of the ancient individuals over time. The final dataset consists of individuals from Eurasia dated between the Palaeolithic (43,000-5,000 BCE) and Iron Age (1,100-700 BCE). The results show that the Italian Peninsula has been shaped by continuous migration events reflected in the gene pool of present-day Italians and leaving their marks on the cultures. In particular, during the Chalcolithic/Bronze Age transition, a new genetic component arrived with the Steppe people suggesting possible social structural changes seen in burial practises. In the Iron Age period, the high genetic heterogeneity is seen in the divergence of the ancestral components presented in the Southeastern Italian Peninsula.

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