DNA Study Reveals Origins of Minoan Civilization

Mitochondrial DNA Study Reveals Origins of Minoan Civilization


A new study reported in the journal Nature Communications indicates that the Minoans, who 5,000 years ago established the first advanced Bronze Age civilization in present-day Crete, probably were descendents of the first Neolithic humans to reach the island around 7,000 BC and that they have the greatest genetic similarity with modern European populations.Now, scientists led by Dr John A. Stamatoyannopoulos and Prof George Stamatoyannopoulos, both from the University of Washington, have used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis of Minoan skeletal remains to determine the likely ancestors of these ancient people.

The Minoans shared the greatest percentage of their mtDNA variation with European populations, especially those in Northern and Western Europe.

When plotted geographically, shared Minoan mtDNA variation was lowest in North Africa and increased progressively across the Middle East, Caucasus, Mediterranean islands, Southern Europe, and mainland Europe. The highest percentage of shared Minoan mitochondrial DNA variation was found with Neolithic populations from Southern Europe.


Geographic density map of mtDNA lineages shared between the Minoans and 11 Bronze Age, Iron Age and Neolithic populations, with the higher percentages represented in red and the lower in white.  The green dots indicate the origin of each of the 11 ancient populations (Jeffery R. Hughey et al)

“About 9,000 years ago, there was an extensive migration of Neolithic humans from the regions of Anatolia that today comprise parts of Turkey and the Middle East. At the same time, the first Neolithic inhabitants reached Crete. Our mitochondrial DNA analysis shows that the Minoan’s strongest genetic relationships are with these Neolithic humans, as well as with ancient and modern Europeans,” Prof George Stamatoyannopoulos said.

“Our data suggest that the Neolithic population that gave rise to the Minoans also migrated into Europe and gave rise to modern European peoples.”

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