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Present-day people from England and Wales have more ancestry derived from early European farmers (EEF) than did people of the Early Bronze Age1. To understand this, here we generated genome-wide data from 793 individuals, increasing data from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age in Britain by 12-fold, and western and central Europe by 3.5-fold. Between 1000 and 875 bc, EEF ancestry increased in southern Britain (England and Wales) but not northern Britain (Scotland) due to incorporation of migrants who arrived at this time and over previous centuries, and who were genetically most similar to ancient individuals from France. These migrants contributed about half the ancestry of people of England and Wales from the Iron Age, thereby creating a plausible vector for the spread of early Celtic languages into Britain. These patterns are part of a broader trend of EEF ancestry becoming more similar across central and western Europe in the Middle to the Late Bronze Age, coincident with archaeological evidence of intensified cultural exchange2–6. There was comparatively less gene flow from continental Europe during the Iron Age, and the independent genetic trajectory in Britain is also reflected in the rise of the allele conferring lactase persistence to approximately 50% by this time compared to approximately 7% in central Europe where it rose rapidly in frequency only a millennium later. This suggests that dairy products were used in qualitatively different ways in Britain and in central Europe over this period.
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Acknowledgements We thank P. Csengeri, T. de Rider, M. Giesen, E. Melis, A. Parkin and A. Schmitt for their contribution to sample selection and collection of archaeological data; R. Crellin, J. Koch, K. Kristiansen and G. Kroonen for comments on the manuscript; A. Williamson for manually revising Y chromosome haplogroup determinations and making corrections to nine; and M. Lee for assistance with data entry. This work was funded in part by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 834087; the COMMIOS Project to I.A.). M.N. was supported by the Croatian Science Fund grant (HRZZ IP-2016-06-1450). P.V., M.Dobeš and Z.V. were supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic (DKRVO 2019-2023/7.I.c, 00023272). M.E. was supported by Czech Academy of Sciences award Praemium Academiae. M.Dobisíková and A.Danielisová were supported by the grant RVO 67985912 of the Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. M.G.B.F. was funded by The Leverhulme Trust via a Doctoral Scholarship scheme awarded to M.Pala and M.B.R. Support to M.Legge came from the South, West & Wales Doctoral Training Partnership. M.G.’s osteological analyses were funded by Culture Vannin. A.S.-N. was supported by the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. T.H., T.S. and K.K.’s work was supported by a grant from the Hungarian Research, Development and Innovation Office (project number: FK128013). We acknowledge support for radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analyses as well as access to skeletal material from Manx National Heritage and A. Fox. Dating analysis was funded by Leverhulme Trust grant RPG-388. M.G.T. and I.B. were supported by a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award (project 100713/Z/12/Z). I.O. was supported by a Ramón y Cajal grant from Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Spanish Government (RYC2019-027909-I). The research directed at Harvard was funded by NIH grants GM100233 and HG012287, by John Templeton Foundation grant 61220, by a gift from Jean-François Clin, and by the Allen Discovery Center program, a Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group advised program of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. D.R. is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
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