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Keywords:

  • ancient DNA;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • Basque population;
  • post-Neolithic gene flow

Summary

The Basque population has been considered an outlier in a large number of genetic studies, due to its hypothesized antiquity and greater genetic isolation. The present paper deals with an analysis of the mtDNA variability of the historical population of Aldaieta (VI–VII c. AD; Basque Country) which, together with genetic data existing for other prehistoric populations of the Basque Country (4,500–5,000 YBP), permits an appraisal of the hypotheses proposed for the origin of the genetic differentiation of the Basque population. Given that this is an aDNA study, application has been made both of standard precautions, to avoid contamination, and of authentication criteria (analysis of duplicates, replication in an independent laboratory, quantification of target DNA, sequencing and cloning of PCR products). The variability of the mtDNA haplogroups of the historical population of Aldaieta falls within the range of the present-day populations of Europe's Atlantic fringe, whereas the prehistoric populations of the Basque Country display clear differentiation in relation to all others. Consequently, we suggest that between 5,000–1,500 YBP approximately, there may have been gene flow amongst the western European populations that homogenised mtDNA lineages.