The Neolithic Pitted Ware culture foragers were culturally but not genetically influenced by the Battle Axe culture herders

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2020 Aug;172(4):638-649. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.24079. Epub 2020 Jun 4.


Objectives: In order to understand contacts between cultural spheres in the third millennium BC, we investigated the impact of a new herder culture, the Battle Axe culture, arriving to Scandinavia on the people of the sub-Neolithic hunter-gatherer Pitted Ware culture. By investigating the genetic make-up of Pitted Ware culture people from two types of burials (typical Pitted Ware culture burials and Battle Axe culture-influenced burials), we could determine the impact of migration and the impact of cultural influences.

Methods: We sequenced and analyzed the genomes of 25 individuals from typical Pitted Ware culture burials and from Pitted Ware culture burials with Battle Axe culture influences in order to determine if the different burial types were associated with different gene-pools.

Results: The genomic data show that all individuals belonged to one genetic population-a population associated with the Pitted Ware culture-irrespective of the burial style.

Conclusion: We conclude that the Pitted Ware culture communities were not impacted by gene-flow, that is, via migration or exchange of mates. These different cultural expressions in the Pitted Ware culture burials are instead a consequence of cultural exchange.

Keywords: Stone Age; admixture; ancient DNA; migration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Burial / history
  • Chromosomes, Human, Y / genetics
  • DNA, Ancient / analysis
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • History, Ancient
  • Human Migration / history*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / ethnology
  • Tooth / chemistry
  • White People* / ethnology
  • White People* / genetics


  • DNA, Ancient
  • DNA, Mitochondrial