Bergsgraven and the evolution of aDNA studies

A quarter of a century ago, 25 years ago, I started to work on the Neolithic burial known as “Bergsgraven”. A Scandinavian Battle Axe burial with an adult male, an adult female, a baby, and a dog in it. And wow did I get some results! I was checking if they were a nuclear family, with the PCR and STR technologies we used back then, and they sure were a nuclear family. Including the dog and a bacteria. I have used that particular result in numerous lectures as an example on when every possible obstacle that aDNA may present appears. It is therefore so cool that we now have been able to make some proper scientific aDNA sense of the material. As usual, all of us who are publishing it together did participate in different ways. But this time Helena Malmström, Torsten Günther, and Janne Storå deserves an extra thanx, for all the weight they pulled on this study.

The burial is in many ways a spectacular Battle Axe grave. With three people buried in it, and with some high-quality artifacts, including the mandatory battle axe. Similar to continental Corded Ware groups, these people from this burial traces parts of their genomes to the expansion from the Pontic-Caspian steppe. We find the steppe component in these Battle Axe related individuals, but we don’t find it among earlier groups in Neolithic Scandinavia. It is interesting because it reveals the genetic variation in Scandinavia during the Neolithics, and it again shows that human mobility has been an important factor during some periods of our prehistory.

aDNA when it does not work