Urartu ve Ötesi Sempozyumu, Van, Turkey, 7 - 09 September 2022, pp.1
Archaeological and archaeogenomic studies conducted in the South Caucasus up till today aimed to understand the population history of the region and its relationship with other West Eurasian populations. Although recent studies indicate human movement into the Caucasus changed during Neolithization and through the Bronze Ages, the exact sources and dynamics of these changes so far remained unsolved, mostly due to the limited spatial and temporal distribution of genome samples.
In this pilot study, we sequenced genomes of 32 skeletons from various archaeological sites in Azerbaijan dated between Neolithic and the Late Bronze Age periods. Of these, 18 individuals yielded sufficient ancient DNA data for the subsequent analyses. Analysis of this data suggests that the population genetic structure in the region changed during the transition from the Epipaleolithic Period to the Neolithic Period. Specifically, the South Caucasian populations genetically became closer to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Upper Mesopotamian gene pool represented by the genomes from Çayönü. Meanwhile, South Caucasus Bronze Age genomes form a cluster distinct from those of earlier periods. This result implies another admixture event possibly starting with the Bronze Age.
The longstanding relationship between the South Caucasus and the Anatolian Peninsula has been supported by material culture data as well as archaeogenomic studies. As it was reported before, Caucasus-related gene flow was inferred to have widely contributed to the Anatolian gene pool since the beginning of the Chalcolithic Period. Overall, our results imply that relationship between these regions was not unidirectional, but bidirectional, and reciprocal gene flow had started at least at the beginning of Chalcolithic Period.