Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany have published a new study in the journal Current Biology which suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors in Europe were replaced by an unknown set of population nearly 15,000 years ago – after the last Ice Age.
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They were able to determine this using DNA samples extracted from the teeth and bones of human remains of that period, and their genetic makeup compared to people living today – then they discovered that there was an “unknown chapter of human history” that cannot be easily explained away.
Mail Online reports that the scientists were able to explain from models that non-African people probably moved east in the direction of Asia and Australasia before the major ice sheets moved back from across Europe, making people to move eastward in a single exodus about 50,000 years ago.
Analyzing genetic fragments of ancient remains of over 30,000 years ago, the researchers were able to reconstruct these to determine the DNA of people that lived 35,000 to 7,000 years ago in Europe. They paid particular attention to mitochondrial DNA to trace maternal lines, finding that genetic markers that people of today have disappeared from ancient populations at the end of the last ice age.
Scientists were able to rebuild this mitochondrial DNA to reveal individuals in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Romania back in the ice age of this period. Known as haplotype, the genetic markers were found to have disappeared from European population after the ice sheets melted.
According to the research team, “Our demographic modeling reveals a dynamic history of hunter-gatherers, including a previously unknown major population shift during the Late Glacial period.”
At this time, researchers believe that the early warming phases of the Late Glacial period are linked to extensive demographic changes, which also included extinctions of many megafaunal species and the first expansion of modern humans into the Americas.
“In European hunter-gatherers, our model explains this period of upheaval as a replacement of the population by another source,” the researchers revealed. “Although the exact origin for this later population is unknown, the inferred demographic history suggests that it descended from another, separate isolated population.”