Washington, September 4 (ANI): The analysis of ancient DNA from skeletons suggests that Europe's first farmers were not the descendants of Stone Age hunter-gatherers in the region, but were probably migrants who came into major areas of central and eastern Europe about 7,500 years ago, bringing domesticated plants and animals with them.
The research involved the analysis of 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.
The team from Mainz University in Germany, together with researchers from UCL (University College London) and Cambridge, found that the first farmers in central and northern Europe could not have been the descendents of the hunter-gatherers that came before them.
Humans arrived in Europe 45,000 years ago and replaced the Neandertals. From that period on, European hunter-gatherers experienced lots of climatic changes, including the last Ice Age.
After the end of the Ice Age, some 11,000 years ago, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle survived for a couple of thousand years but was then gradually replaced by agriculture.
The question was whether this change in lifestyle from hunter-gatherer to farmer was brought to Europe by new people, or whether only the idea of farming spread.
The new results from the Mainz-led team seem to solve much of this long-standing debate.
"Our analysis shows that there is no direct continuity between hunter-gatherers and farmers in Central Europe," said Prof Joachim Burger. "As the hunter-gatherers were there first, the farmers must have immigrated into the area," he added.
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," said Barbara Bramanti, first author of the study.
The new study confirms what Joachim Burger's team showed in 2005; that the first farmers were not the direct ancestors of modern European.
According to Burger, "We are still searching for those remaining components of modern European ancestry. European hunter-gatherers and early farmers alone are not enough. But new ancient DNA data from later periods in European prehistory may shed also light on this in the future." (ANI)