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European Neolithization and Ancient DNA: An Assessment


  • Marie-France Deguilloux,

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    • Marie-France Deguilloux and Marie-Hélène Pemonge are paleogeneticists and co-directors of the Paleogenetic Platform at the UMR PACEA of Bordeaux University. Their research deals with the reconstruction of past human migrations through the analysis of ancient human DNA. Their current research focuses on Neolithic remains.

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  • Rachael Leahy,

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    • Rachael Leahy is a graduate student at the Ohio State University. Her research interests include the European Bronze Age. E-mail:

  • Marie-Hélène Pemonge,

  • Stéphane Rottier

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    • Stéphane Rottier is an anthropologist and archeologist at the UMR PACEA ofBordeaux University. His research focuses on funerary practices in late European prehistory (Neolithic and Bronze Age). E-mail:


Neolithic processes underlying the distribution of genetic diversity among European populations have been the subject of intense debate since the first genetic data became available. However, patterns observed in the current European gene pool are the outcome of Paleolithic and Neolithic processes, overlaid with four millennia of further developments. This observation encouraged paleogeneticists to contribute to the debate by directly comparing genetic variation from the ancient inhabitants of Europe to their contemporary counterparts. Pre-Neolithic and Neolithic paleogenetic data are becoming increasingly available for north and northwest European populations. Despite the numerous problems inherent in the paleogenetic approach, the accumulation of ancient DNA datasets offers new perspectives from which to interpret the interactions between hunter-gatherer and farming communities. In light of information emerging from diverse disciplines, including recent paleogenetic studies, the most plausible model explaining the movement of Neolithic pioneer groups in central Europe is that of leapfrog migration.

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