Emergence and Spread of Basal Lineages of Yersinia pestis during the Neolithic Decline

Nicolás Rascovan, Karl-Göran Sjögren, Kristian Kristiansen, Rasmus Nielsen, Eske Willerslev, Christelle Desnues, Simon Rasmussen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, many Neolithic societies declined throughout western Eurasia due to a combination of factors that are still largely debated. Here, we report the discovery and genome reconstruction of Yersiniapestis, the etiological agent of plague, in Neolithic farmers in Sweden, pre-dating and basal to all modern and ancient known strains of this pathogen. We investigated the history of this strain by combining phylogenetic and molecular clock analyses of the bacterial genome, detailed archaeological information, and genomic analyses from infected individuals and hundreds of ancient human samples across Eurasia. These analyses revealed that multiple and independent lineages of Y. pestis branched and expanded across Eurasia during the Neolithic decline, spreading most likely through early trade networks rather than massive human migrations. Our results are consistent with the existence of a prehistoric plague pandemic that likely contributed to the decay of Neolithic populations in Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10
JournalCELL
Volume176
Pages (from-to)295-305
Number of pages11
ISSN0092-8674
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Elsevier Open Archive https://www.elsevier.com/about/open-science/open-access/open-archive

Cite this

Rascovan, N., Sjögren, K-G., Kristiansen, K., Nielsen, R., Willerslev, E., Desnues, C., & Rasmussen, S. (2019). Emergence and Spread of Basal Lineages of Yersinia pestis during the Neolithic Decline. CELL, 176, 295-305. [e10]. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018.11.005