For most of the last century archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists and even geneticists have argued about who the ancestors of Europeans living today were.
People lived in Europe before and after the last big ice age and managed to survive by hunting and gathering and farming spread into Europe from the Near East over the last 9,000 years, which boosted the amount of food that could be produced by as much as 100-fold. But the extent to which modern Europeans are descended from either of those two groups has eluded scientists.
Not now, according to a team from Mainz University in Germany, UCL (University College London) and Cambridge, who say they have found that the first farmers in central and northern Europe could not have been the descendents of the hunter-gatherers that came before them.
Their DNA analysis of skeletons suggests that Europe's first farmers were not the descendants of the people who settled the area after the retreat of the ice sheets and instead probably migrated into major areas of central and eastern Europe about 7,500 years ago, bringing domesticated plants and animals with them, says Barbara Bramanti from Mainz University in Germany and colleagues.
The researchers analyzed DNA from hunter-gatherer and early farmer burials, and compared those to each other and to the DNA of modern Europeans. They conclude that there is little evidence of a direct genetic link between the hunter-gatherers and the early farmers, and 82 percent of the types of mtDNA found in the hunter-gatherers are relatively rare in central Europeans today.
But what is even more surprising, they also found that modern Europeans couldn’t solely be the descendents of either the hunter-gatherer alone, or the first farmers alone, and are unlikely to be a mixture of just those two groups. “This is really odd”, said Professor Mark Thomas, a population geneticist at UCL and co-author of the study. “For more than a century the debate has centered around how much we are the descendents of European hunter-gatherers and how much we are the descendents of Europe’s early farmers. For the first time we are now able to directly compare the genes of these Stone Age Europeans, and what we find is that some DNA types just aren’t there - despite being common in Europeans today.”
Humans arrived in Europe 45,000 years ago and replaced the Neandertals (Neanderthals). From that period on, European hunter-gatherers experienced lots of climatic changes, including the last Ice Age. After the end of the Ice Age, some 11,000 years ago, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle survived for a couple of thousand years but was then gradually replaced by agriculture. The question was whether this change in lifestyle from hunter-gatherer to farmer was brought to Europe by new people, or whether only the idea of farming spread. The new results from the Mainz-led team seems to solve much of this long standing debate.
“Our analysis shows that there is no direct continuity between hunter-gatherers and farmers in Central Europe,” says Prof Joachim Burger. “As the hunter-gatherers were there first, the farmers must have immigrated into the area.”
The study identifies the Carpathian Basin as the origin for early Central European farmers. “It seems that farmers of the Linearbandkeramik culture immigrated from what is modern day Hungary around 7,500 years ago into Central Europe, initially without mixing with local hunter gatherers,” says Barbara Bramanti, first author of the study. “This is surprising, because there were cultural contacts between the locals and the immigrants, but, it appears, no genetic exchange of women.”
The new study confirms what Joachim Burger´s team showed in 2005; that the first farmers were not the direct ancestors of modern European. Burger says “We are still searching for those remaining components of modern European ancestry. European hunter-gatherers and early farmers alone are not enough. But new ancient DNA data from later periods in European prehistory may shed also light on this in the future.”
Article: “Genetic discontinuity between local hunter-gatherers and Central Europe’s first farmers” online in Science Express on 3 September 2009
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- On Sexuality, You Weren't Born That Way, Says Paper
- Post-Doctoral Positions In Experimental Physics For Foreigners
- Petition: Let's End Dramatized Reporting Of "Doomsday" Stories - The Vulnerable Get Suicidal
- Ramen Noodles Supplanting Cigarettes As Currency Among Prisoners
- Gödel,Frenkel, Kurzweil, and Hawkins on AI
- The Status Of HEP After ICHEP
- How To Become A Charlatan In 9 Easy Steps
- "Dylan, yes back online now. The Sun, and Moon are visible in all those places, of course, so if..."
- "Tina, I think it's best to try to understand the constellation argument because then you can just..."
- "People worry about a system entering ours and spelling doomsday for us all, however I believe if..."
- " I appreciate your hard work and look forward to any future publications with great interest, thank..."
- "Yes, in answer to the question above, the authors discuss replicability and sample size of the..."
- Exercise Could Save Your Liver
- Precision Medicine Stands On Imprecise Infrastructure
- Standing with Giants: A Collection of Public Health Essays in Memoriam to Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan
- RIP Dr. D.A. Henderson, ACSH Trustee Who Helped End Smallpox
- How Safe Are Tattoos?
- Mystery Meat: What Other Animals Are in that Hot Dog?
- Asbestos can move in soil
- Guarana found to have higher antioxidant potential than green tea
- Global allergy epidemic -- new data on vaccines/probiotics and dairy allergy
- Color-graded pictogram label to reduce medicine-related traffic crashes found ineffective
- Astronomers identify a young heavyweight star in the Milky Way