The Bronze Age in Europe is characterized by major socio-economic changes, including certain aspects of animal husbandry. In the Alpine region archaeozoological data, though not very abundant, reveal that cattle were the most important domestic animals in this time period. They were probably used differently in the lowlands than at higher altitude, traction became more important and people increasingly exploited them for dairy products rather than for meat. Thus, a crucial question in this context is whether these major events are accompanied by changes in genetic diversity of cattle. Here we report partial mtDNA d-loop data (320 bp) obtained by PCR from 40 alpine cattle excavated at different sites in South Tyrol, Italy, and Grisons, Switzerland. Most cattle belong to the main European taurine T3 haplogroup, but a few members of T2 and Q haplogroups were identified. Moreover, genetic diversity measures and population genetic statistics indicate different cattle histories at different sites, including bottlenecks and potential admixture. However, Bronze Age Alpine cattle appear to be linked to modern rural cattle mainly from Italy.
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