|23 February 2013
Farming arrived in Europe with migrants
New data gleaned from the teeth of prehistoric farmers and the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers with whom they briefly overlapped shows that agriculture was introduced to Central Europe from the Near East by colonisers who brought farming technology with them.
"One of the big questions in European archaeology has been whether farming was brought or borrowed from the Near East," says Douglas Price, a University of Wisconsin-Madison archaeologist who, with Cardiff University's Dusan Boric, measured strontium isotopes in the teeth of 153 humans from Neolithic burials in the Danube Gorges of modern Romania and Serbia. Strontium is found in rocks everywhere, and leaves an indelible signature in teeth which documents an individual's birthplace.
The Danube Gorges slice through the Carpathian Mountains, which in the Stone Age were a heavily forested setting rich in fish and game, and potentially a desirable entryway to Europe for highly mobile and expanding Neolithic communities.
The new research, explains Price, "...Suggests another route across the Black Sea or up the east coast of Bulgaria to the Danube for farmers moving into Europe. This contrasts with movement by sea across the Mediterranean or Aegean, which is the standard picture." Price notes there is some evidence for the importation of early agriculture along the shores of the Mediterranean and in Central Europe, "but elsewhere in Europe it is not clear whether it was colonists or locals adopting."
An interesting finding of the study is that 8,000 years ago, more women than men were identified as foreigners. One possible explanation is that women came from Neolithic farming communities as part of an ongoing social exchange.
Edited from EurekAlert! (11 February 2013)
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