Ancient DNA makes it possible to observe natural selection directly by analysing samples from populations before, during and after adaptation events. Here we report a genome-wide scan for selection using ancient DNA, capitalizing on the largest ancient DNA data set yet assembled: 230 West Eurasians who lived between 6500 and 300 bc, including 163 with newly reported data. The new samples include, to our knowledge, the first genome-wide ancient DNA from Anatolian Neolithic farmers, whose genetic material we obtained by extracting from petrous bones, and who we show were members of the population that was the source of Europe’s first farmers. We also report a transect of the steppe region in Samara between 5600 and 300 bc, which allows us to identify admixture into the steppe from at least two external sources. We detect selection at loci associated with diet, pigmentation and immunity, and two independent episodes of selection on height.

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European Nucleotide Archive

Data deposits

The aligned sequences are available through the European Nucleotide Archive under accession number PRJEB11450. The Human Origins genotype datasets including ancient individuals can be found at (http://genetics.med.harvard.edu/reich/Reich_Lab/Datasets.html).


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Download references


We thank P. de Bakker, J. Burger, C. Economou, E. Fornander, Q. Fu, F. Hallgren, K. Kirsanow, A. Mittnik, I. Olalde, A. Powell, P. Skoglund, S. Tabrizi and A. Tandon for discussions, suggestions about SNPs to include, or contribution to sample preparation or data curation. We thank S. Pääbo, M. Meyer, Q. Fu and B. Nickel for collaboration in developing the 1240k capture reagent. We thank J. M. V. Encinas and M. E. Prada for allowing us to resample La Braña 1. I.M. was supported by the Human Frontier Science Program LT001095/2014-L. C.G. was supported by the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS). F.G. was supported by a grant of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, no. 380-62-005. A.K., P.K. and O.M. were supported by RFBR no. 15-06-01916 and RFH no. 15-11-63008 and O.M. by a state grant of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russia Federation no. 33.1195.2014/k. J.K. was supported by ERC starting grant APGREID and DFG grant KR 4015/1-1. K.W.A. was supported by DFG grant AL 287 / 14-1. C.L.-F. was supported by a BFU2015-64699-P grant from the Spanish government. W.H. and B.L. were supported by Australian Research Council DP130102158. R.P. was supported by ERC starting grant ADNABIOARC (263441), and an Irish Research Council ERC support grant. D.R. was supported by US National Science Foundation HOMINID grant BCS-1032255, US National Institutes of Health grant GM100233, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Author information

Author notes

    • Cristina Gamba
    •  & Joseph Pickrell

    Present addresses: Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 5–7, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark (C.G.); New York Genome Center, New York, New York 10013, USA (J.P.).

    • Wolfgang Haak
    • , Ron Pinhasi
    •  & David Reich

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Iain Mathieson
    • , Iosif Lazaridis
    • , Nadin Rohland
    • , Swapan Mallick
    • , Eadaoin Harney
    • , Kristin Stewardson
    • , Joseph Pickrell
    •  & David Reich
  2. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA

    • Iosif Lazaridis
    • , Nadin Rohland
    • , Swapan Mallick
    • , Nick Patterson
    •  & David Reich
  3. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Swapan Mallick
    • , Eadaoin Harney
    • , Kristin Stewardson
    •  & David Reich
  4. Independent researcher, Santpoort-Noord, The Netherlands

    • Songül Alpaslan Roodenberg
  5. School of Archaeology and Earth Institute, Belfield, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland

    • Daniel Fernandes
    • , Mario Novak
    • , Kendra Sirak
    • , Cristina Gamba
    •  & Ron Pinhasi
  6. Institute for Anthropological Research, Zagreb 10000, Croatia

    • Mario Novak
  7. Department of Anthropology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA

    • Kendra Sirak
  8. Smurfit Institute of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland

    • Cristina Gamba
    •  & Eppie R. Jones
  9. Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, School of Biological Sciences & Environment Institute, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia

    • Bastien Llamas
    • , Alan Cooper
    •  & Wolfgang Haak
  10. Laboratory of Human Molecular Genetics, Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk 630090, Russia

    • Stanislav Dryomov
  11. Department of Paleolithic Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk 630090, Russia

    • Stanislav Dryomov
  12. Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, 28040 Madrid, Spain

    • Juan Luís Arsuaga
  13. Departamento de Paleontología, Facultad Ciencias Geológicas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain

    • Juan Luís Arsuaga
  14. Centro Nacional de Investigacíon sobre Evolución Humana (CENIEH), 09002 Burgos, Spain

    • José María Bermúdez de Castro
  15. IPHES. Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social, Campus Sescelades-URV, 43007 Tarragona, Spain

    • Eudald Carbonell
    • , Marina Lozano
    •  & Josep Maria Vergès
  16. Area de Prehistoria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), 43002 Tarragona, Spain

    • Eudald Carbonell
    • , Marina Lozano
    •  & Josep Maria Vergès
  17. Netherlands Institute in Turkey, Istiklal Caddesi, Nur-i Ziya Sokak 5, Beyog˘ lu 34433, Istanbul, Turkey

    • Fokke Gerritsen
  18. Volga State Academy of Social Sciences and Humanities, Samara 443099, Russia

    • Aleksandr Khokhlov
    • , Pavel Kuznetsov
    •  & Oleg Mochalov
  19. State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt and State Museum of Prehistory, D-06114 Halle, Germany

    • Harald Meller
    •  & Kurt W. Alt
  20. Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) RAS, St Petersburg 199034, Russia

    • Vyacheslav Moiseyev
  21. Department of Prehistory and Archaeology, University of Valladolid, 47002 Valladolid, Spain

    • Manuel A. Rojo Guerra
  22. The Netherlands Institute for the Near East, Leiden RA-2300, the Netherlands

    • Jacob Roodenberg
  23. Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, D-07745 Jena, Germany

    • Johannes Krause
    •  & Wolfgang Haak
  24. Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen, D-72070 Tübingen, Germany

    • Johannes Krause
  25. Danube Private University, A-3500 Krems, Austria

    • Kurt W. Alt
  26. Institute for Prehistory and Archaeological Science, University of Basel, CH-4003 Basel, Switzerland

    • Kurt W. Alt
  27. Anthropology Department, Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York 13820, USA

    • Dorcas Brown
    •  & David Anthony
  28. Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-Universitat Pompeu Fabra), 08003 Barcelona, Spain

    • Carles Lalueza-Fox


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W.H., R.P. and D.R. supervised the study. S.A.R., J.L.A., J.M.B., E.C., F.G., A.K., P.K., M.L., H.M., O.M., V.M., M.A.R., J.R., J.M.V., J.K., A.C., K.W.A., D.B., D.A., C.L., W.H., R.P. and D.R. assembled archaeological material. I.M., I.L., N.R., S.M., N.P., S.D., J.P., W.H. and D.R. analysed genetic data. N.R., E.H., K.St., D.F., M.N., K.Si., C.G., E.R.J., B.L., C.L. and W.H. performed wet laboratory ancient DNA work. I.M., I.L. and D.R. wrote the manuscript with input from all co-authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Iain Mathieson or Wolfgang Haak or Ron Pinhasi or David Reich.

Extended data

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Text comprising: Archaeological context for 83 newly reported ancient samples (Section 1) and Population interactions between Anatolia, mainland Europe, and the Eurasian steppe (Section 2) with additional references.

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Data 1

    This file contains information about 230 ancient samples used in this study.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Data 2

    This file shows FST between ancient and modern populations.

Text files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Data 3

    This file contains Genome-wide selection scan results and allele frequencies.


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