Genomic diversity of prehistoric individuals from the Iceman’s territory in the Eastern Italian Alps

  • Deutsch
  • English
  • Italiano
  • Project duration: September 2020 - December 2022
  • Project status: ongoing
  • Funding:
    Provincial P.-L.P. 14. Research projects (Province BZ funding /Project)
  • Total project budget: €300,000.00

The eastern Italian Alps (Trentino-Alto Adige region) is an important border area between the Mediterranean and the northern Alps. Archaeological data in this area suggests that during the Copper Age (~3500-2200 BC cal.) there had been several contacts with non-local cultures from East and West Europe. The Tyrolean Iceman (3360-3100 cal. BC) is the best known representative individual of the Copper Age in Europe. In the eastern italian Alps, besides the Tyrolean Iceman, only one Mesolithic sample (Veneto Dolomites; 14,180-13,780 cal BP) has been analyzed for genomic variation. Therefore, there is a lack of ancient genetic data from prehistoric individuals from this strategic geographic area. 

In the Eurac, ancient DNA laboratory of the Institute for Mummy Studies in Bolzano, we plan to produce genomic data from several prehistoric samples (50) from the Eastern Italian Alps (dated from Neolithic to Middle Bronze Age). The project will:  collect and sample the human remains for the genetic analyses (WP1), estimate the preservation and the quality of the ancient DNA of the samples by shotgun sequencing and analyze the genomic variation of best samples by enrichment and a capture approach (WP2), use the radiocarbon dating method to date the samples (WP3), analyze statistically the genomic data in order to study the genetic relationship among alpine prehistoric individuals and other ancient and modern European populations and compared the results with archaeological information (WP4). Lastly, publish the data in peer-review journals of impact as well as disseminate the results through different strategies (WP5).

The main goal of the project is to characterize the genomic diversity and structure of alpine prehistoric samples in order to provide answers to specific  questions. : i) do the alpine prehistoric samples cluster together? iii) do the alpine individuals from the Copper age cluster with the Early Neolithic farmers as is the case for the Iceman? iii) do they share the same ancestral components and in which proportions? Finally, comparison with archaeological data will also make it possible to explore the presence of a “Alpine cultural group” during the Copper Age as suggested by archeologists. In a broader context, the project will allow to gaining an insight into the relationship between the prehistoric alps and the Neolithic migration waves from  Anatolia to southern Europe.

Genomic diversity of prehistoric individuals from the Iceman’s territory in the Eastern Italian Alps
Coia V (2021)

Conference: Iceman - quo vadis? Virtual Symposium for the Iceman's 30th anniversary | Bolzano | 20.9.2021 - 20.9.2021

Our partners

Archaeological Heritage Office, Autonomous Province of Trento

Rovereto Civic Museum Foundation

Office for Archaeological Heritage, Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen

Castle of Buonconsiglio

Project Team
1 - 5


1 - 7


Development and centralization of the laboratory infrastructures of the Institute for Mummy Studies ...

Duration: December 2017 - July 2022Funding: FESR (EU funding / Project)

view all

Institute's Projects