The Bronze Age is a complex period of social, cultural and economic changes. Recent paleogenomic studies have documented a large and rapid genetic change in early Bronze Age populations from Central Europe. However, the detailed demographic and genetic processes involved in this change are still debated. Here we have used spatially explicit simulations of genomic components to better characterize the demographic and migratory conditions that may have led to this change. We investigated various scenarios representing the expansion of pastoralists from the Pontic steppe, potentially linked to the Yamnaya cultural complex, and their interactions with local populations in Central Europe, considering various eco-evolutionary factors, such as population admixture, competition and long-distance dispersal. Our results do not support direct competition but rather the cohabitation of pastoralists and farmers in Central Europe, with limited gene flow between populations. They also suggest occasional long-distance migrations accompanying the expansion of pastoralists and a demographic decline in both populations following their initial contact. These results link recent archaeological and paleogenomic observations and move further the debate of genomic changes during the early Bronze Age.
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