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Aurora magazine

The oldest DNA in Europe is in Sardinia

The oldest DNA in Europe is in Sardinia and in particular in the areas of Ogliastra and Barbagia. This is revealed by a research published in Nature Genomics, conducted on 3,514 Sardinians. At the helm of the team was Dr. Francesco Cucca, director of the Cnr-Irgb and professor of medical genetics in Sassari.

The inhabitants of these areas conserve high percentages of the genetic heritage of a particular Neolithic population. Their ancestors were Middle Eastern farmers, belonging to pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherer communities. They lived in Europe as early as 7-10 thousand years ago, even before the Euro-Asian populations that would have spread in the Bronze Age. This makes the Sardinians a population much more similar to the Basques than to the rest of the Italians, at least from the genetic point of view.

The genetic heritage of the Sardinians is a mix of the DNA of the early Neolithic peasants and pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherers. This second type of DNA is the most interesting one. Compared to other European populations, the Sardinians have a higher percentage of pre-Neolithic genetic heritage. In fact, due to the isolation of the island, populations from the Euro-Asian steppes have contributed relatively little to the Sardinian gene pool.

In the rest of Europe, the Neolithic and Pre-Neolithic genetic heritage has been diluted with the generations. In Sardinia, the phenomenon has been more limited. For this reason, scientists believe that Sardinia could be a reserve of lost genetic variants. Some of these could even belong to the Proto-European baseline, almost completely disappeared in continental Europe. Beyond the purely scientific interest, these variations could help us understand and fight certain genetic diseases.