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Journal Article

Mobility and trade in Mediterranean antiquity: Evidence for an ‘Italian connection’ in Mycenaean Greece revealed by ancient DNA of livestock


Stockhammer,  Philipp W.
MHAAM, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Meiri, M., Stockhammer, P. W., Morgenstern, P., & Maran, J. (2019). Mobility and trade in Mediterranean antiquity: Evidence for an ‘Italian connection’ in Mycenaean Greece revealed by ancient DNA of livestock. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 23, 98-103. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.10.011.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-1369-2
The Late Bronze Age (ca. 1700/1600–1050 BCE) in the Aegean started with strong connections between societies in the region and beyond, and was accompanied by the collapse of palatial polities around 1200 BCE. The collapse led to unrest and migration in the East Mediterranean. In the present study, we focus on settlement contexts dating to the transition between the Mycenaean palatial and post-palatial periods (ca. 1250–1050 BCE) in Greece, which saw the destruction of the Mycenaean palaces (ca. 1200 BCE). We aim to shed light on trade connections and mobility in the region during this substantial period through ancient DNA of livestock. We sequenced pig and cattle mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from Tiryns, Greece - a key Bronze Age site in the Aegean region. We discovered an Italian pig haplotype in palatial Tiryns. This is the first time that this particular haplotype is found outside Italy. By contrast, a genetic haplotype of Near Eastern descent (Y1) that was present in the Mycenaean palatial period cannot be ascertained in the post-palatial period. Whether comparable changes in the composition of livestock are also to be found in cattle, we are not able to say, because only the palatial period samples yielded ancient DNA. The results of this study corroborate the published data on mtDNA of pigs from the Mediterranean Basin from the Bronze and Iron Ages. They suggest that in the Mediterranean, pigs were translocated through various patterns of mobility; by Italian migrants to Mycenaean Greece as well as by other mobile groups (“Sea Peoples”) to the Levant. Ancient DNA is a powerful tool to reveal ancient translocations of species, and pigs serve a good proxy for tracing patterns of human mobility and interconnections.