Little is known about the genetic prehistory of Sardinia because of the scarcity of pre-Neolithic human remains.
From a genetic perspective, modern Sardinians are known as genetic outliers in Europe, showing unusually high levels of internal diversity and a close relationship to early European Neolithic farmers. However, how far this peculiar genetic structure extends and how it originated was to date impossible to test.
Here we present the first and oldest complete mitochondrial sequences from Sardinia, dated back to 10,000 BP. These two individuals, while confirming a Mesolithic occupation of the island, belong to rare mtDNA lineages, which have never been found before in Mesolithic samples and that are currently present at low frequencies not only in Sardinia, but in the whole Europe. Preliminary Approximate Bayesian Computations, restricted by biased reference samples for Mesolithic Sardinia (the two typed samples) and Neolithic Europe (limited to central and north European sequences), suggest that the first inhabitants of the island have had a small or negligible contribution to the present-day Sardinian population, which mainly derives its genetic diversity from continental migration into the island by Neolithic times.
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