Population genomic analysis of elongated skulls reveals extensive female-biased immigration in Early Medieval Bavaria

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Mar 27;115(13):3494-3499. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1719880115. Epub 2018 Mar 12.

Abstract

Modern European genetic structure demonstrates strong correlations with geography, while genetic analysis of prehistoric humans has indicated at least two major waves of immigration from outside the continent during periods of cultural change. However, population-level genome data that could shed light on the demographic processes occurring during the intervening periods have been absent. Therefore, we generated genomic data from 41 individuals dating mostly to the late 5th/early 6th century AD from present-day Bavaria in southern Germany, including 11 whole genomes (mean depth 5.56×). In addition we developed a capture array to sequence neutral regions spanning a total of 5 Mb and 486 functional polymorphic sites to high depth (mean 72×) in all individuals. Our data indicate that while men generally had ancestry that closely resembles modern northern and central Europeans, women exhibit a very high genetic heterogeneity; this includes signals of genetic ancestry ranging from western Europe to East Asia. Particularly striking are women with artificial skull deformations; the analysis of their collective genetic ancestry suggests an origin in southeastern Europe. In addition, functional variants indicate that they also differed in visible characteristics. This example of female-biased migration indicates that complex demographic processes during the Early Medieval period may have contributed in an unexpected way to shape the modern European genetic landscape. Examination of the panel of functional loci also revealed that many alleles associated with recent positive selection were already at modern-like frequencies in European populations ∼1,500 years ago.

Keywords: Early Medieval; Migration Period; demographic inference; paleogenomics; population genetics.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Archaeology
  • DNA, Ancient
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Germany
  • Haplotypes
  • History, Medieval
  • Human Migration*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Skull / anatomy & histology
  • Skull / metabolism*
  • Whole Genome Sequencing

Substances

  • DNA, Ancient