Genetic Impact of The Bronze Age at the Fringes of Europe

  • M. George B. Foody

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The Bronze Age had a major effect on societies across Europe, bringing new technologies, ideologies and languages. In recent years, archaeogenetic studies have demonstrated that this time period is also associated with a large-scale migration from the Eurasian steppe. This PhD thesis studies the genetic impact of the Bronze Age on two island fringes of Europe. The island of Crete lies in the Mediterranean, on the southeastern point of Europe. In contrast, the Orkney archipelago sits at the northwestern extreme of the coast of Britain. Although culturally different, they are both seen as being atypical compared to their mainland counterparts.

Crete hosted a flourishing civilisation, the Minoans, who developed their own language, writing and architectural styles. Hypotheses have associated this culture to a continuation of pre-existing Neolithic society. The necropolis of Armenoi presents a unique opportunity to understand this population as it dates to a transition period in Crete between the indigenous Minoan and the mainland Mycenaean culture. Analyses of the genetic composition of Armenoi provided insights into whether this cultural change occurred as the result of the movement of ideas or people. Genetic diversity, similarities to other ancient populations, and kin groups within the cemetery were investigated. Isotopic analysis will be used to demonstrate the dietary composition of the population.

The Bronze Age of Orkney is often seen as a cultural backwater, not undergoing the same cultural changes of the British mainland. Differences seen during the British Bronze Age are associated with a large population turnover. The Bronze Age in Orkney is different to other parts of Britain, and genomic analysis will determine whether Orkney was part of this migration or not. The impact of the Bronze Age will also be assessed in Britain by studying a time transect from across the island.

These studies will provide insights into the local populations and their place in comparison to the broader history of Europe.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCeiridwen Edwards (Main Supervisor), Maria Pala (Co-Supervisor) & Martin Richards (Co-Supervisor)

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