History and evolution of the Picene Culture through Ancient DNA analysis

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Until the Roman conquest, the Italian peninsula was characterized by the presence of many different ethnic groups. Although considerable archaeological research has been conducted, several aspects of the origins and evolution of these ancient populations are still unknown. We focused our attention on the Picenes, a civilization established in IX-III cc. BCE on the Adriatic coast of central Italy that, on the basis of archaeological data, seems to be composed of many local groups not necessarily ancestrally related. During the Iron Age, central-eastern Italy experienced the full development of the Picene culture, but in the early years of the III c. BCE Picenes underwent Roman expansion and the whole region was subject to Rome. In order to investigate the origin of the Picenes and the genetic legacy ofthe Roman conquest, we performed the ancient DNA analysis of new samples from different burial sites of central Italy. On the basis of the material culture, the selected sites belong either to Picenes or to other pre-Roman and Roman cultures. We then framed our data in the context of published Italian and European ancient data, for a total of more than 1500 samples included in our study. Our preliminary results show that the genetic diversity of Picenes seems to be consistent with other Iron Age Italian and European people, suggesting a genetic continuity with previous central Italian cultures. On the other hand, during the Roman rule there was a shift in the genetic landscape of central Italy possibly due to an influence from eastern Mediterranean people.


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