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Immigrants the first Europe farmers

Europeans couldn't solely be the descendents of either the hunter-gatherer or the first farmers but a mixture of those two groups

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.

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.

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."

by S. C.
07 september 2009, Food Notes > Miscellanea

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