A mosaic genetic structure of the human population living in the South Baltic region during the Iron Age
Despite the increase in our knowledge about the factors that shaped the genetic structure of the human population in Europe, the demographic processes that occurred during and after the Early Bronze Age (EBA) in Central-East Europe remain unclear. To fill the gap, we isolated and sequenced DNAs of 60 individuals from Kowalewko, a bi-ritual cemetery of the Iron Age (IA) Wielbark culture, located between the Oder and Vistula rivers (Kow-OVIA population). The collected data revealed high genetic diversity of Kow-OVIA, suggesting that it was not a small isolated population. Analyses of mtDNA haplogroup frequencies and genetic distances performed for Kow-OVIA and other ancient European populations showed that Kow-OVIA was most closely linked to the Jutland Iron Age (JIA) population. However, the relationship of both populations to the preceding Late Neolithic (LN) and EBA populations were different. We found that this phenomenon is most likely the consequence of the distinct genetic history observed for Kow-OVIA women and men. Females were related to the Early-Middle Neolithic farmers, whereas males were related to JIA and LN Bell Beakers. In general, our findings disclose the mechanisms that could underlie the formation of the local genetic substructures in the South Baltic region during the IA.