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.