David Caramelli, Francesca Conselvan, Patrick Geary (organisateur), Silvia Ghirotto, Caterina Giostra, István Koncz, Maria Cristina La Rocca, Balázs Mende, Daniel Peters, Walter Pohl, Cosimo Posth, Stefania Vai, Krishna Veeramah, Tivadar Vida
by Patrick Geary
10 – 15 March, 2014
Summary: The meeting at Les Treilles on Multidisciplinary study of early medieval migrations in Europe focused on the application of next generation sequencing to trace migrations from Central Europe into Italy in the sixth century as a pioneering application of genetic analysis to European demographic history
Key words: Migration, NGS, Medieval History, Lombards, Stable Isotopic Analysis
The Meeting in Les Treilles brought 14 geneticists, historians, and archaeologists from Hungary, Austria, Italy, Germany and the United States together to summarize the results of the first full year of an interdisciplinary investigation of medieval population movements at the end of the so-called Migration Age (5th-8th centuries CE).
The first day was devoted to general introductions and background in history, archaeology, and genetics by David Caramelli, Walter Pohl, Balázs Mende, and Cosimo Posth as they have been applied to population movements. These presentations presented the complexities and problems of using both written and archaeological evidence to identify specific ethnic groups. Francesca Conselvan presented an overview of previous genetic based studies of medieval migration.
The second day concentrated on issues in Lombard archaeology and history. Here we saw that the definition of Lombards could vary by different criteria such as origin, law, military service, or culture, such that it is meaningless to attempt to define “Lombards” in any universal sense on a basis of archaeological or historical evidence. Daniel Peters, Tivadar Vida, and István Koncz working in Pannonia discussed specific problems such as the dependence on textual evidence for chronology, the problems of establishing clear material chronologies in comparison with Merovingian archaeology in Germany, and the apparent influence of fashion in grave goods throughout the region. Caterina Giostra provided an overview of Lombard archaeology in Italy.
A pilot project comparing Lombard cemeteries in Szólád Hungary and Collegno, Italy occupied the third day. Tivadar Vida presented the archaeological site of Szólád and Daniel Peters presented the extensive isotopic analyses done at the site. Caterina Giostra presented Collegno and Patrick Geary and Daniel Peters presented the preliminary isotopic results of the work performed by Suzanna Hakenbeck on the site. Stefania Vai presented the work that she has done to date on the aDNA samples from the two sites to prepare them for Next Generation Sequencing and the resulting data on Uracil-DNA glycosylase libraries from the Shotgun sequencing, concluding that it is indeed possible to obtain aDNA from the 40 samples from Szólád and Collegno.
During the final day of the meeting Silvia Ghirotto presented the results of the preliminary data analysis from Collegno and Krishna Veeramah presented the techniques of modeling our data and together worked us through an initial attempt at determining sex of samples based on the shotgun sequencing data as a rough test of the quality of the data produced. The remainder of the day was dedicated to discussion of further steps in the project. Our conclusions were as follows:
- This type of interdisciplinary, international cooperation can make a significant contribution both to elucidating the deep history of Europe’s population and to perfecting tools for the analysis of aDNA. Thus the implications of this project reach far beyond the specific case studies currently in progress.
- It is clearly possible to get meaningful genetic data from our sixth-century specimens.
- We will continue with the pilot project that provides funds to sequence ca. 40 samples, twenty each from Collegno and from Szólád. We will continue with whole mitochondrial sequencing and the preparation of forty samples including both Lombard and non-Lombard samples for NGS analysis.
- It has been decided that our targets will be:
- The 350k SNP chips developed by Johannes Krause in Tübingen.
- 5k of continuous sequence, to include those continuous sequences previously selected for analysis by Johannes Berger in Mainz.
- This genetic analysis must be accompanied by exacting archaeological data on the individual graves from which each sample was taken as well as on the characteristics of the cemeteries in general. This information will be compiled by the appropriate Italian and Hungarian specialists.
- In the next months the Italian team will prepare a proposal to the ERC to fund the full scale project while the American team will prepare a more limited proposal for the NSF for a detailed analysis of kinship in the Szólád cemetery.
- We agreed to plan another, fuller meeting in the future to discuss the results of the NGS work and analysis to be completed in the next year.