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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-12202015-110627

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Characterization of Sus scrofa as an investigative tool about the lifestyle of human populations in Southern Italy during the Neolithic Revolution
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Rook, Lorenzo
relatore Prof. Raia, Pasquale
  • ancient DNA
  • Domestication
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • Neolithic Revolution
  • pig
  • Southern Italy
  • Sus scrofa
  • wild boar
Graduation session start date
Release date
Evolutionary biology explores the history and processes that generate organismal diversity through diverse approaches, including paleontology, molecular biology, population genetics and biogeography. These processes are defined in terms of driving forces including mutation, genetic drift, natural selection and gene flow. Geographical variation in mitochondrial DNA has been studied in a wide array of modern populations, in order to reconstruct the migrations and spread of ancestors across the world. However, population genetic processes can significantly influence the reconstruction and timing of past migratory and demographic events as inferred from the analysis of modern genetic markers. Despite several methodological problems associated with contamination and post-mortem degradation, the analysis of ancient DNA provides a direct view of past genetic structure and allows solving a variety of evolutionary questions.
Specifically, this research aims at filling gaps in the knowledge of the genetic history of Southen Italian and Sardinian pigs, from Neolithic to Roman Age. I investigated the domestication process and evolutionary structure in Sus scrofa species, using both modern DNA analysis and morphology of wild boar, and ancient DNA from pig remains. The knowledge of such genetic history indirectly allows to study the early human practices of hunting and breeding in Italy, as well as onto human migrations. I chose the wild boar as an indicator species for its close connection to early human farmers and extended (and well documented) transplantation of domestic individuals through time. However, pig domestication in the Mediterranean basin is still poorly known, especially in Southern Italy, where Neolithic farming in Europe probably started. Moreover, Southern Italy represents an area of tremendously high (current) genetic diversity of wild boar, and has a past long history of human occupation and passage of different cultures. Thus, revealing the history and identity of Italian pigs over time would say a lot about the past trade, the origin and traditions of the ancient human societies of the Italian Peninsula.