Dynasty and population of the Piast state in view of integrated historical, anthropological and genomic studies

  • Principal Investigator: Prof. Marek Figlerowicz, Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poznań, Poland
  • Project title: Dynasty and population of the Piast state in view of integrated historical, anthropological and genomic studies
  • Funding scheme: SONATA 5, announced on 15th March 2013

There are no controversies among historians that the process of establishment of the Piast state constitutes the initial phase of the formation of Polish statehood. It is also generally accepted that our knowledge about this process is very limited due to the lack of reliable written and material sources. The substantial progress that has been recently made in ancient DNA (aDNA) sequencing gives us a unique chance to overcome this situation. The conclusions drawn from the postulated studies may significantly increase or at least make more clear and comprehensible existing knowledge on the Piast state population, on the Piast Dynasty, and consequently on the history of Central Europe and the Polish state. Similar projects based on aDNA analysis and focused on local ancient societies have been only recently initiated in other European countries. Thus, our project will give a chance for Polish historians, archeologists, anthropologists and geneticists to participate in an all-European debate on our past. In addition, it will provide an important and still missing dataset that can help other scientists better understand and interpret European history. This project is also of great importance for biological sciences. The generated data will constitute a specific biological documentation of the time. Moreover, the interdisciplinary database (a public internet portal), which we plan to establish, will be widely used to test many other hypotheses beyond the project; it will also serve as a reference for other archaeogenomic studies.

The main objective of the project is to answer several questions, important for Polish and European history, and related to the following issues: (i) the origin of the population inhabiting the region between the Oder and Vistula rivers in the time of the Piast state formation – verification of hypothesis concerning settlement continuation or discontinuation from the Roman Iron Age until the 12th century; (ii) the genetic, morphological and cultural homogeneity of the 10-12th century Wielkopolska population – verification of several hypotheses concerning relations of the historical Wielkopolska population with neighboring populations; (iii) the local or foreign origins of the Piast Dynasty – verification of the hypotheses concerning the origin of the Piast family; (iv) the local or foreign origins of the early Piast state’s elites and their comprehensive analysis with reference to historical data – verification of the hypotheses concerning the involvement of immigrants in the process of elite formation in the early Piast state. In addition, we plan: (i) to develop and implement several strategies of ancient nuclear genome analyses with the use of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology; (ii) to construct the Piasts’ reference genome and the reference genomes of typical representatives of the Piast state society; (iii) to generate an interdisciplinary database, integrating genomic, genetic, anthropometric, archeological and historical data generated in the framework of the project.

The project will be carried out in Poznan Center for Archeogenomics which is formed by three research units: (i) Faculty of History, Adam Mickiewicz University (AMU), (ii) Faculty of Biology, AMU, and (iii) Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences (IBCH PAS). In addition, we plan close cooperation with the group of German historians from the University of Münster. This group is headed by Prof. Eduard Mühle – a well-known specialist in the history of Central and Central Eastern Europe. To achieve the main goals of the project, we plan multidimensional and interdisciplinary (historical, archeological, anthropological, genetic and genomic) studies of the populations inhabiting the territory of present-day Wielkopolska in the time ranging from the Roman Iron Age up to the Early Middle Ages. We plan to achieve the above-mentioned objectives with the use of standard methods of physical anthropology and modern bioarcheological and bioinformatic techniques, including aDNA analysis by NGS.

Prof. Marek Figlerowicz

Professor at the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poznań, Poland.