Abstract

The origins of the Bronze Age Minoan and Mycenaean cultures have puzzled archaeologists for more than a century. We have assembled genome-wide data from 19 ancient individuals, including Minoans from Crete, Mycenaeans from mainland Greece, and their eastern neighbours from southwestern Anatolia. Here we show that Minoans and Mycenaeans were genetically similar, having at least three-quarters of their ancestry from the first Neolithic farmers of western Anatolia and the Aegean1,2, and most of the remainder from ancient populations related to those of the Caucasus3 and Iran4,5. However, the Mycenaeans differed from Minoans in deriving additional ancestry from an ultimate source related to the hunter–gatherers of eastern Europe and Siberia6,7,8, introduced via a proximal source related to the inhabitants of either the Eurasian steppe1,6,9 or Armenia4,9. Modern Greeks resemble the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution of the Early Neolithic ancestry. Our results support the idea of continuity but not isolation in the history of populations of the Aegean, before and after the time of its earliest civilizations.

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Acknowledgements

We thank M. McCormick for comments and critiques, F. Göhringer, I. Kucukkalipci, and G. Brandt for wet laboratory support, and S. Pääbo for providing access to the clean room facilities at the MPI-EVA, Leipzig. We thank the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, the Hellenic Archaeological Service, and the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism for approval of our studies, and the personnel of the Hagios Nikolaos, Herakleion, Pireas, Olympia, Chora (Trifylia), and Isparta Museums for facilitating sample collection. All maps were plotted in R using the worldHiRes map of the ‘mapdata’ package (using data in the public domain from the CIA World Data Bank II). Research on Hagios Charalambos cave by P.J.P.McG. was supported by the Royal Society and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP). D.M.F. was supported by an Irish Research Council grant (GOIPG/2013/36). J.K. and A.M. were funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft grant KR 4015/1-1 and the Max Planck Society. D.R. was supported by National Institutes of Health grant GM100233, by National Science Foundation HOMINID BCS-1032255, and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. The study of the ancient Minoans and Mycenaeans was supported by the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust to G.S.

Author information

Author notes

    • Iosif Lazaridis
    •  & Alissa Mittnik

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

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

    • Iosif Lazaridis
    • , Swapan Mallick
    • , Nadin Rohland
    • , Songül Alpaslan Roodenberg
    • , Kristin Stewardson
    •  & David Reich
  2. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA

    • Iosif Lazaridis
    • , Nick Patterson
    • , Swapan Mallick
    •  & David Reich
  3. Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, 07745 Jena, Germany

    • Alissa Mittnik
    • , Alexander Peltzer
    • , Cosimo Posth
    • , Philipp Stockhammer
    •  & Johannes Krause
  4. Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen, 72074 Tübingen, Germany

    • Alissa Mittnik
    • , Saskia Pfrengle
    • , Anja Furtwängler
    • , Cosimo Posth
    •  & Johannes Krause
  5. Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Nick Patterson
  6. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA

    • Swapan Mallick
    • , Kristin Stewardson
    •  & David Reich
  7. Integrative Transcriptomics, Centre for Bioinformatics, University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany

    • Alexander Peltzer
  8. 23rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, 71202 Herakleion, Crete

    • Andonis Vasilakis
  9. British School at Athens, 106 76 Athens, Greece

    • P. J. P. McGeorge
  10. 26th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, Greek Ministry of Culture, 13536 Piraeus, Greece

    • Eleni Konsolaki-Yannopoulou
  11. Department of Archaeology, University of Athens, 17584 Athens, Greece

    • George Korres
  12. The Holley Martlew Archaeological Foundation, The Hellenic Archaeological Foundation, Tivoli House, Tivoli Road, Cheltenham GL50 2TD, UK

    • Holley Martlew
  13. University of Crete Medical School, 711 13 Herakleion, Crete, Greece

    • Manolis Michalodimitrakis
  14. Erenköy, Bayar caddesi, Eser Apt. Number 7, Daire 24, Kadıköy, Istanbul, Turkey

    • Mehmet Özsait
    •  & Nesrin Özsait
  15. Ephorate of Paleoantropology and Speleology, Greek Ministry of Culture, 11636 Athens, Greece

    • Anastasia Papathanasiou
  16. Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada

    • Michael Richards
  17. Hellenic Archaeological Service, Samara, 27, Paleo Psychico, 15452 Athens, Greece

    • Yannis Tzedakis
  18. Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HG, UK

    • Robert Arnott
  19. School of Archaeology and Earth Institute, Belfield, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland

    • Daniel M. Fernandes
    •  & Ron Pinhasi
  20. CIAS, Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Coimbra 3000-456, Portugal

    • Daniel M. Fernandes
  21. Division of Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, Hartnell College, 411 Central Avenue, Salinas, California 93901, USA

    • Jeffery R. Hughey
  22. Division of Medical Genetics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA

    • Dimitra M. Lotakis
    • , Patrick A. Navas
    •  & George Stamatoyannopoulos
  23. Laboratory of Archaeometry, National Center for Scientific Research ‘Demokritos’, Aghia Paraskevi 153 10, Attiki, Greece

    • Yannis Maniatis
  24. Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA

    • John A. Stamatoyannopoulos
  25. Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA

    • John A. Stamatoyannopoulos
    •  & George Stamatoyannopoulos
  26. Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Seattle, Washington 98121, USA

    • John A. Stamatoyannopoulos
  27. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Institut für Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie und Provinzialrömische Archäologie, 80799 München, Germany

    • Philipp Stockhammer
  28. Department of Anthropology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria

    • Ron Pinhasi

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Contributions

G.S. conceived the study. D.R. and J.K. co-supervised the ancient DNA work, sequencing, and data analysis. I.L. performed population genetics analysis and wrote the manuscript with input from other authors. P.J.P.McG., E.K.-Y., G.K., H.M., M.M., M.Ö., N.Ö., A.Pa., M.R., S.A.R., Y.T., A.V., R.A., P.S., R.P., J.K., and G.S. assembled, studied, or described archaeological and osteological material. A.M., S.P., N.R., A.F., C.P., D.M.F., J.R.H., D.M.L., Y.M., J.A.S., K.St., R.P., G.S., D.R., P.A.N., and J.K. performed wet laboratory work. A.M., N.P., S.M., and A.Pe., performed bioinformatics analyses.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Iosif Lazaridis or David Reich or Johannes Krause or George Stamatoyannopoulos.

Reviewer Information Nature thanks R. Nielsen, C. Renfrew, B. Shapiro and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains four sections with accompanying Supplementary Figures and Tables. Section 1: Archaeological and osteological context of ancient samples; Section 2: Admixture modeling of ancient populations; Section 3: Y-chromosome haplogroup determination; Section 4: Phenotypic inference.

Word documents

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Table 1

    Overview of processing steps for ancient samples

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Table 2

    Screening results

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