Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Europe's First Farmers Were Immigrants: Replaced Their Stone Age Hunter-gatherer Forerunners

Date:
September 4, 2009
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Analysis of ancient DNA suggests that Europe's first farmers were not the descendants of the people who settled the area after the retreat of the ice sheets. Instead, the early farmers probably migrated into major areas of central and eastern Europe about 7,500 years ago, bringing domesticated plants and animals with them. DNA analysis reveals little evidence of a direct genetic link between the hunter-gatherers and the early farmers.

DNA-analysis in the laboratories of Mainz University.
Credit: Image copyright Joachim Burger

Analysis of ancient DNA from 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. Instead, the early farmers 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.

For more than a century archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, and more recently, geneticists, have argued about who the ancestors of Europeans living today were. We know that people lived in Europe before and after the last big ice age and managed to survive by hunting and gathering. We also know that farming spread into Europe from the Near East over the last 9,000 years, thereby increasing the amount of food that can 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 despite many attempts to answer this question.

Now, a team from Mainz University in Germany, together with researchers from UCL (University College London) and Cambridge, 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. 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. 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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bramanti, B., Thomas, M.G., Haak, W., Unterlaender, M., Jores, P., Tambets, K., Antanaitis-Jacobs, I., Haidle, M.N., Jankauskas, R., Kind, C.-J. , Lueth, F., Terberger, T., Hiller, J., Matsumura, S., Forster, P., Burger J. Genetic discontinuity between local hunter-gatherers and Central Europe%u2019s first farmers. Science, 2009; DOI: 10.1126/science.1176869

Cite This Page:

University College London. "Europe's First Farmers Were Immigrants: Replaced Their Stone Age Hunter-gatherer Forerunners." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090903163902.htm>.
University College London. (2009, September 4). Europe's First Farmers Were Immigrants: Replaced Their Stone Age Hunter-gatherer Forerunners. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090903163902.htm
University College London. "Europe's First Farmers Were Immigrants: Replaced Their Stone Age Hunter-gatherer Forerunners." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090903163902.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) — A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) — Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

AFP (Sep. 25, 2014) — American doctor and photographer Jeff Gusky reveals the underground quarries used by the soldiers of World War One, and the artwork they left behind which illustrates their hopes and fears. Duration: 02:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) — A rare, well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth is going on sale at Summers Place Auctions hope the 11.5-foot tall, almost intact specimen will fetch between $245,000 to $409,000. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins