|25 November 2017
European hunter-gatherers co-existed with farmers from Near East
The Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods included one of the most important shifts in human history: the transition from hunter-gatherer groups to farming communities. Extensive new DNA evidence by a large international team reveals early hunter-gatherer populations from Europe and farmers emigrating from the Near East were interbreeding. Most modern Europeans are descended from the Near East immigrant farmers, but have remnants of hunter-gatherer DNA.
Researchers analysed the genomes of 180 ancient individuals from what are now Hungary, Germany, and Spain, who lived between 6,000 BCE and 2,200 BCE, building mathematical models describing how ancient populations might have interacted as they moved. The models show that for each of the three regions included in the study, the arrival of farmers prompted interbreeding with local hunter-gatherers, and this trend was seen repeatedly over time and in each geographical region.
The data also suggest that farmers tended to travel a lot, while hunter-gatherers were more apt to stay fairly close to home.
The evidence further reveals the origins of the Neolithic farmers. Most appear to have been migrants from Anatolia, an area that today falls within Turkey. In geographic terms, this is the area bounded to the north by the Black Sea, to the east and south by the Southeastern Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, and to the west by the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
Anatolia was within the Fertile Crescent, comparatively moist and fertile areas in what is otherwise an arid and semi-arid part of the present Middle East.
The researchers would like to apply their methods to other parts of the world, which could show how different populations interbred after their initial meetings.
Edited from EurekAlert!, PhysOrg (9 November 2017), Seeker (8 November 2017)
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