Sicily is one of the main islands of the Mediterranean Sea, and it is characterized by a variety of archaeological records, material culture and traditions, reflecting the history of migrations and populations' interaction since its first colonization, during the Paleolithic. These deep and complex demographic and cultural dynamics should have affected the genomic landscape of Sicily at different levels; however, the relative impact of these migrations on the genomic structure and differentiation within the island remains largely unknown. The available Sicilian modern genetic data gave a picture of the current genetic structure, but the paucity of ancient data did not allow so far to make predictions about the level of historical variation. In this work, we sequenced and analyzed the complete mitochondrial genomes of 36 individuals from five different locations in Sicily, spanning from Early Bronze Age to Iron Age, and with different cultural backgrounds. The comparison with coeval groups from the Mediterranean Basin highlighted structured genetic variation in Sicily since Early Bronze Age, thus supporting a demic impact of the cultural transitions within the Island. Explicit model testing through Approximate Bayesian Computation allowed us to make predictions about the origin of Sicanians, one of the three indigenous peoples of Sicily, whose foreign origin from Spain, historically attributed, was not confirmed by our analysis of genetic data. Sicilian modern mitochondrial data show a different, more homogeneous, genetic composition, calling for a recent genetic replacement in the Island of pre-Iron Age populations, that should be further investigated.
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