Stone Age Aegean Migrants Brought Farming To Europe, Study Finds

Posted: Jun 7 2016, 1:58am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 7 2016, 9:29pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Stone Age Aegean Migrants Brought Farming to Europe, Study Finds
Human skeleton from an archaeological excavation in northern Greece. Credit: K. Kotsakis and P. Halstead

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Genome analysis reveals that the first farmers in Europe were migrants from Aegean Neolithic civilization.

Europe was dominated by hunter gatherers for most of the last 45,000 years. Those people hunted animals and gathered wild plants for their sustenance. Then, came Aegeans – the migrants from area around Aegean Sea who started to spread across the Europe some 8,000 years ago. And they were the ones who introduced agriculture to the Europe.

The results popped up when an international team of researchers analyzed the DNA of ancient farming communities in Germany, Hungary and Spain and compared them with genomes of early farmer skeletons from Greece and Turkey.

Agriculture was practiced in Turkey centuries earlier from where it reached to central Europe by 7,500 years ago and Britain by 6,100 years ago. New research shows a genetic link between European and Aegean populations and rules out the possibility that farming simply spread from one population to another without a major migration of farmers themselves.

DNA analysis suggests that early farmers came in two separate waves - a Balkan route into central Europe and the Iberian Peninsula via a Mediterranean route. The migrants brought agriculture, plants and domestic animals to Europe and coexisted with hunter-gatherers who were living in the region since the Ice Age, though, a relatively brief period of time.

While many previous researches showed a lack of interbreeding between the migrating farmers and hunter-gatherers, the genome analysis points to a strong, direct relationship and also clarifies a long-standing debate about the origin of first European farmers.

“Whether the first farmers came ultimately from this area is not yet established, but certainly we have seen with our study that these people, together with their revolutionary Neolithic culture, colonized Europe through northern Aegean over a short period of time.” Zuzana Hofmanová and Susanne Kreutzer, the lead authors of the study from Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz explained.

The migration of ancient farmers has profound consequences for Europe and they have touched every facets of life from agriculture to foraging to exposure to new diseases.

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