Early Alpine occupation backdates westward human migration in Late Glacial Europe

Eugenio Bortolini, Luca Pagani, Gregorio Oxilia, Cosimo Posth, Federica Fontana, Federica Badino, Tina Saupe, Francesco Montinaro, Davide Margaritora, Matteo Romandini, Federico Lugli, Andrea Papini, Marco Boggioni, Nicola Perrini, Antonio Oxilia, Riccardo Aiese Cigliano, Rosa Barcelona, Davide Visentin, Nicolò Fasser, Simona ArrighiCarla Figus, Giulia Marciani, Sara Silvestrini, Federico Bernardini, Jessica C. Menghi Sartorio, Luca Fiorenza, Jacopo Moggi Cecchi, Claudio Tuniz, Toomas Kivisild, Fernando Gianfrancesco, Marco Peresani, Christiana L. Scheib, Sahra Talamo, Maurizio D'Esposito, Stefano Benazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Before the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, ∼16.5 ka ago)1 set in motion major shifts in human culture and population structure,2 a consistent change in lithic technology, material culture, settlement pattern, and adaptive strategies is recorded in Southern Europe at ∼18–17 ka ago. In this time frame, the landscape of Northeastern Italy changed considerably, and the retreat of glaciers allowed hunter-gatherers to gradually recolonize the Alps.3–6 Change within this renewed cultural frame (i.e., during the Late Epigravettian phase) is currently associated with migrations favored by warmer climate linked to the Bølling-Allerød onset (14.7 ka ago),7–11 which replaced earlier genetic lineages with ancestry found in an individual who lived ∼14 ka ago at Riparo Villabruna, Italy, and shared among different contexts (Villabruna Cluster).9 Nevertheless, these dynamics and their chronology are still far from being disentangled due to fragmentary evidence for long-distance interactions across Europe.12 Here, we generate new genomic data from a human mandible uncovered at Riparo Tagliente (Veneto, Italy), which we directly dated to 16,980–16,510 cal BP (2σ). This individual, affected by focal osseous dysplasia, is genetically affine to the Villabruna Cluster. Our results therefore backdate by at least 3 ka the diffusion in Southern Europe of a genetic component linked to Balkan/Anatolian refugia, previously believed to have spread during the later Bølling/Allerød event. In light of the new genetic evidence, this population replacement chronologically coincides with the very emergence of major cultural transitions in Southern and Western Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2484-2493.e7
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2021


  • Epigravettian
  • Late Glacial
  • paleogenomics
  • population turnover
  • Southern Europe
  • Upper Palaeolithic
  • WHG

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