From Bones to Genomes: Current Research on the Population History of Prehistoric Anatolia

Kazancı D. D. , Altınışık N. E. , Aydoğan A., Özer F., Sürer E., Atakuman Ç., ...More

in: The Archaeology of Anatolia, Volume IV: Recent Discoveries (2018–2020), Sharon R. Steadman,Gregory McMahon, Editor, Cambridge Scholars Publishing , Cambridge, pp.355-371, 2021

  • Publication Type: Book Chapter / Chapter Research Book
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
  • City: Cambridge
  • Page Numbers: pp.355-371
  • Editors: Sharon R. Steadman,Gregory McMahon, Editor


In this chapter, we provide an overview of current knowledge of human population history in Anatolia, and more specifically, the demographic history of the region with regards to migration and the admixture processes across time. Although the earliest evidence of the human presence in Anatolia dates back to the Palaeolithic period (Güleç 1999; Taşkıran 2008), the scope of our review will be limited to a time period from the Final Pleistocene to the late Holocene, specifically focusing on the Holocene, when human population sizes and activity increased dramatically, driven by the Neolithic transition.

For over a century, archaeological and historical studies in Anatolia have yielded rich accounts of social transformation over the last 15,000 years. These include major shifts in subsistence, culture, and language (Sagona and Zimansky 2015). As in many cases in human history, a persistent question has been the degree to which these cultural changes in Anatolia were driven by human movement, instead of pure cultural interaction, i.e., sharing or diffusion of cultures and technology. Although the two processes are not mutually exclusive, identifying their relative contributions can significantly deepen our understanding of the dynamics of social transition.

Our review covers results collected in different periods and from different data sources: anthropometric analysis, molecular genetic studies on modern-day Anatolians, and recent ancient DNA and archaeogenomic work. However, this is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the full body of such work. Instead, we focus on ancient genome analyses, given their power in resolving past population movements. We provide several exemplary cases where ancient genomes have been used to evaluate the possible roles of human movement in cultural change in the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.