Representation of one of the scenes of man in the Bronze Age.
Representation of one of the scenes of man in the Bronze Age.


The article here on the Diario de Almería site provides information about the Bronze Age in the province of Almería.

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The Argaric Culture of Almería influenced the genetic change of man in the peninsula

DNA from 136 prehistoric skeletons (mostly from the Argar) reveals genomic and social transformations during the transition from the Copper Age to the Bronze Age in southwestern Europe

The third millennium before our era (ANE) is a very dynamic period in the prehistory of Europe and Western Asia, characterized by large-scale social and political changes. In the Iberian Peninsula, the Copper Age was in full swing around 2500 BCE, with significant population growth, attested by a great diversity of settlements and fortifications, monumental funerary structures, as well as macro-villages of more than 100 hectares. For reasons that are not yet clear, the second half of the millennium experienced depopulation and the abandonment of large settlements, fortifications and necropolises.

In the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula, around 2200 BCE, one of the most outstanding archaeological entities of the European Bronze Age emerged: the culture of “El Argar”, one of the first state-level societies on the European continent. This society is identified by its large central settlements on hills, differentiated ceramics, specialized weapons and bronze, silver and gold artifacts, along with an intramural funerary rite, with burials and habitats integrated into the same space.

El Argar deposit, in the province of Almería
El Argar deposit, in the province of Almería

In Almería, El Argar is an archaeological site located in the municipality of Antas. It is located on a plateau with steep slopes on its western side, 35 m above the Antas River and softer slopes on the rest, extending through part of the latter as well. It is part of the archaeological zone of El Argar and La Gerundia, constituting a prehistoric town from the Bronze Age of the Iberian southeast that gives its name to the Argaric culture.

A new study led by a research team from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and the Max Planck Institutes for the Science of the History of Humanity (Jena) and Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig) and published in Science Advances has explored the relationship between large-scale demographic changes and the main social and political changes of the third and second millennium ANE, by analyzing the genomes of 136 Iberian individuals who lived between 3000 and 1500 ANE (96 of the Bronze Age of The Argar and other contemporary societies, 34 from the Copper Age and 6 from the Late Bronze Age).

Including published genomes from the Iberian Peninsula, the new study covers data from nearly 300 prehistoric individuals and specifically focuses on the transition from the Copper to the Bronze Age, around 2200 BCE.

The genomes of various individuals reveal changes in the Bronze Age populations in the southern peninsula. / ASOME-UAB
The genomes of various individuals reveal changes in the Bronze Age populations in the southern peninsula. / ASOME-UAB

“Although we knew that the so-called steppe ancestry, which had spread through Europe during the third millennium BCE, ended up reaching the north of the Iberian Peninsula around 2400 BCE, we were surprised to see that all prehistoric individuals from the El Argar period carried a part of this ancestry, while in the individuals of the Copper Age it is absent ”, affirms the researcher of the Max Planck Wolfgang Haak, main author and investigator of the study.

Genomic data reveal some of the processes behind this genetic change. While the bulk of the genome shows that Bronze Age individuals are a mixture of local Copper Age ancestry and a minor part of incoming ancestry from the European continent, paternally inherited Y-chromosome lineages show a complete change, linked to the movement of steppe descent that is also visible in other parts of Europe. "The causes of this disappearance of the previous diversity of the Y chromosome are still very difficult to explain," says Cristina Rihuete Herrada, co-lead author of the study and researcher at the UAB.

Substantial new data from the El Argar sites also show that these two components do not fully explain the genetic makeup of early Bronze Age societies. “We also found signs of ancestry that we traced to the central and eastern Mediterranean and western Asia. We cannot say exactly if these influences arrived at the same time as the steppe ancestry, but they did form part of the nascent societies of El Argar, which shows that there were continuous contacts with these regions ", adds Vanessa Villalba-Mouco, postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute and the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE, CSIC-UPF) and co-lead author of the study.

The UAB researchers already pointed out possible Mediterranean connections when they discovered in 2013 the monumental fortification of the Argaric settlement of La Bastida, in Murcia, to explain the originality of some architectural elements. “The genetic study argues in favor of this hypothesis: the data show that this unprecedented Mediterranean connection would have been maintained in a sustained way over time until the end of the period of

El Argar, around 1500 BC ”, highlights Rafael Micó, a researcher at the UAB and also a co-lead author of the study.

Is it considered a newly founded settlement, with no chalcolithic antecedents? With an area of 16,000 m² and an estimated population of about 500, it is one of the largest known villages belonging to the eponymous group. Inside the houses themselves, more than a thousand graves have been found.