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The Holocene (beginning around 12,000 years ago) encompassed some of the most significant changes in human evolution, with far-reaching consequences for the dietary, physical and mental health of present-day populations. Using a dataset of more than 1,600 imputed ancient genomes1, we modelled the selection landscape during the transition from hunting and gathering, to farming and pastoralism across West Eurasia. We identify key selection signals related to metabolism, including that selection at the FADS cluster began earlier than previously reported and that selection near the LCT locus predates the emergence of the lactase persistence allele by thousands of years. We also find strong selection in the HLA region, possibly due to increased exposure to pathogens during the Bronze Age. Using ancient individuals to infer local ancestry tracts in over 400,000 samples from the UK Biobank, we identify widespread differences in the distribution of Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age ancestries across Eurasia. By calculating ancestry-specific polygenic risk scores, we show that height differences between Northern and Southern Europe are associated with differential Steppe ancestry, rather than selection, and that risk alleles for mood-related phenotypes are enriched for Neolithic farmer ancestry, whereas risk alleles for diabetes and Alzheimer's disease are enriched for Western hunter-gatherer ancestry. Our results indicate that ancient selection and migration were large contributors to the distribution of phenotypic diversity in present-day Europeans.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





312 - 320