From around 2750 to 2500 bc, Bell Beaker pottery became widespread across western and central Europe, before it disappeared between 2200 and 1800 bc. The forces that propelled its expansion are a matter of long-standing debate, and there is support for both cultural diffusion and migration having a role in this process. Here we present genome-wide data from 400 Neolithic, Copper Age and Bronze Age Europeans, including 226 individuals associated with Beaker-complex artefacts. We detected limited genetic affinity between Beaker-complex-associated individuals from Iberia and central Europe, and thus exclude migration as an important mechanism of spread between these two regions. However, migration had a key role in the further dissemination of the Beaker complex. We document this phenomenon most clearly in Britain, where the spread of the Beaker complex introduced high levels of steppe-related ancestry and was associated with the replacement of approximately 90% of Britain’s gene pool within a few hundred years, continuing the east-to-west expansion that had brought steppe-related ancestry into central and northern Europe over the previous centuries.
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We thank D. Anthony, J. Koch, I. Mathieson and C. Renfrew for comments; A. Cooper for support from the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA; the Bristol Radiocarbon Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility (BRAMS); A. C. Sousa, A. M. Cólliga, L. Loe, C. Roth, E. Carmona Ballesteros, M. Kunst, S.-A. Coupar, M. Giesen, T. Lord, M. Green, A. Chamberlain and G. Drinkall for assistance with samples; E. Willerslev for supporting several co-authors at the Centre for GeoGenetics; the Museo Arqueológico Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid, the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow, the Orkney Museum, the Museu Municipal de Torres Vedras, the Great North Museum: Hancock, the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, the Sunderland Museum, the National Museum of Wales, the Duckworth Laboratory, the Wiltshire Museum, the Wells Museum, the Brighton Museum, the Somerset Heritage Museum and the Museum of London for facilitating sample collection. Support for this project was provided by Czech Academy of Sciences grant RVO:67985912; by the Momentum Mobility Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; by the Wellcome Trust (100713/Z/12/Z); by Irish Research Council grant GOIPG/2013/36 to D.F.; by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences (WIN project ‘Times of Upheaval’) to P.W.S., J.K. and A.Mi.; by the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences grant M16-0455:1 to K.Kr.; by the National Science Centre, Poland grant DEC-2013/10/E/HS3/00141 to M.Fu.; by Obra Social La Caixa and by a Spanish MINECO grant BFU2015-64699-P to C.L.-F.; by a Spanish MINECO grant HAR2016-77600-P to C.L., P.R. and C.Bl.; by the NSF Archaeometry program BCS-1460369 to D.J.K.; by the NFS Archaeology program BCS-1725067 to D.J.K. and T.Ha.; and by an Allen Discovery Center grant from the Paul Allen Foundation, US National Science Foundation HOMINID grant BCS-1032255, US National Institutes of Health grant GM100233, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to D.R.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Reviewer Information Nature thanks C. Renfrew, E. Rhodes, M. Richards and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Extended data figures and tables
a, ‘All-Over-Cord’ Beaker from Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland. Photograph: © National Museums Scotland. b, Beaker-complex grave goods from La Sima III barrow, Soria, Spain61. The set includes Beaker pots of the so-called ‘Maritime style’. Photograph: Junta de Castilla y León, Archivo Museo Numantino, Alejandro Plaza.
Extended Data Figure 2 Ancient individuals with previously published genome-wide data used in this study.
a, Sampling locations. b, Time ranges. WHG, western hunter-gatherers; EHG, eastern hunter-gatherers; SHG, Scandinavian hunter-gatherers; CHG, Caucasus hunter-gatherers; E, Early; M, Middle; L, Late; N, Neolithic; CA, Copper Age; and BA, Bronze Age. Map data from the R package ‘maps’.
a, Principal component analysis of 990 present-day west Eurasian individuals (grey dots), with previously published (pale yellow) and new ancient samples projected onto the first two principal components. b, ADMIXTURE clustering analysis with K = 8 showing ancient individuals. WHG, western hunter-gatherers; EHG, eastern hunter-gatherers; SHG, Scandinavian hunter-gatherers; CHG, Caucasus hunter-gatherers; E, Early; M, Middle; L, Late; N, Neolithic; CA, Copper Age; and BA, Bronze Age.
Differential affinity to hunter-gatherer individuals (La Braña156 from Spain and KO162 from Hungary) in European populations before the emergence of the Beaker complex. See Supplementary Information section 8 for mixture proportions and standard errors computed with qpAdm2. E, Early; M, Middle; L, Late; N, Neolithic; CA, Copper Age; BA, Bronze Age; N_Iberia, northern Iberia; and C_Iberia, central Iberia.
a, Admixture graph fitting a test population as a mixture of sources related to both Iberia_EN and Hungary_EN. b, Likelihood distribution for models with different proportions of the source related to Iberia_EN (green admixture edge in a) when the test population is England_N, Scotland_N or France_MLN. E, Early; M, Middle; L, Late; and N, Neolithic.
Extended Data Figure 6 Genetic affinity between Beaker-complex-associated individuals from southern England and the Netherlands.
a, f-statistics of the form f4(Mbuti, test; BK_Netherlands_Tui, BK_England_SOU). Negative values indicate that test population is closer to BK_Netherlands_Tui than to BK_England_SOU; positive values indicate that the test population is closer to BK_England_SOU than to BK_Netherlands_Tui. Error bars represent ± 3 standard errors. b, Outgroup f3-statistics of the form f3(Mbuti; BK_England_SOU, test) measuring shared genetic drift between BK_England_SOU and other Beaker-complex-associated groups. Error bars represent ± 1 standard errors. Number of individuals for each group is given in parentheses. BK_Netherlands_Tui, Beaker-complex-associated individuals from De Tuithoorn (Oostwoud, the Netherlands); BK_England_SOU, Beaker-complex-associated individuals from southern England. See Supplementary Table 1 for individuals associated with each population label.
Error bars represent 1.9-log-likelihood support interval. The red dashed lines show allele frequencies in the 1000 Genomes Project (http://www.internationalgenome.org/) ‘GBR’ population (present-day people from Great Britain). Sample sizes are 50, 98 and 117 for Britain Neolithic, Britain Copper Age and Bronze Age, and central European Beaker-complex-associated individuals, respectively. BC, Beaker complex; CA, Copper Age; and BA, Bronze Age.
This file contains Supplementary Text and Data, Supplementary Figures 1-5, Supplementary Tables S1-S12 and Supplementary References. (PDF 6895 kb)
This file contains Supplementary Tables 1-5. Supplementary Table 1 shows the ancient individuals included in this study. Supplementary Table 2 contains mitochondrial haplogroup calls for individuals with newly reported data. Supplementary Table 3 contains mitochondrial haplogroup frequencies for relevant ancient populations. Supplementary Table 4 contains Y-chromosome calls for males with newly reported data and Supplementary Table 5 contains the radiocarbon database. (XLSX 282 kb)
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Olalde, I., Brace, S., Allentoft, M. et al. The Beaker phenomenon and the genomic transformation of northwest Europe. Nature 555, 190–196 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature25738
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