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Beyond broad strokes: sociocultural insights from the study of ancient genomes

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Racimo, Fernando 
Sikora, Martin 
Vander Linden, Marc  ORCID logo
Schroeder, Hannes 
Lalueza-Fox, Carles 


The amount of sequence data obtained from ancient samples has dramatically expanded in the last decade, and so have the type of questions that can now be addressed using ancient DNA. In the field of human history, while ancient DNA has provided answers to long-standing debates about major movements of people, it has also recently begun to inform on other important facets of the human experience. The field is now moving from mostly fixating on large-scale supra-regional studies to also taking a more local perspective, shedding light on socioeconomic processes, inheritance rules, marriage practices and technological diffusion. In this review, we summarize recent studies showcasing these types of insights, focusing on methods used to infer sociocultural aspects of human behaviour. This often involves working across disciplines that have, until recently, evolved in separation. We argue that multidisciplinary dialogue is crucial for a more integrated and richer reconstruction of human history, as it can yield extraordinary insights about past societies, reproductive behaviors and even lifestyle habits that would not have been possible to obtain otherwise.



Archaeology, DNA, Ancient, Emigration and Immigration, Genetics, Population, History, Ancient, Humans, Metagenomics, Socioeconomic Factors

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Nature Reviews Genetics

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Springer Nature


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