Genetics, archaeology and culture

Martin Evison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores historical and contemporary approaches to the use of genetic and archaeological evidence in the interpretation of European Prehistory. It begins by reviewing the early work of anthropologists, which was ambitious in scientific scope and effort, but doomed in interpretation by the framework of colonial expansion and racial hierarchy within which it arose. It briefly considers the emergence of serology and genetic studies, and the gradual displacement of the racial paradigm following the Second World War. The Neolithic transition and the genetics of populations in Europe model of Ammerman and Cavalli-Sforza is used to generate a fuller discussion of the dimensions involved in combining archaeological and genetic evidence, and alternative mechanisms are explored. The potential for ancient DNA to contribute to this and other debates is raised, and the prospects offered by more recent scientific developments in human genetics are considered. Genetic studies—modern and ancient—have become established as having the potential to support archaeological investigations with considerable breadth and time-depth. The paper aims to offer a nuanced consideration of a number of issues arising from this discussion and concludes that genes, environment, language and archaeology are individually and together legitimate and pressing subjects of enquiry for the scholar of the past.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-319
JournalMediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry: An International Scientific Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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