One of the great debates in archaeological research for the past century has been the degree to which cultures or people move. Research conducted by the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, a multiyear global initiative that uses DNA to map the history of human migration, is helping unravel the timing and source of human settlement in central Europe, says an October 10, 2013 news release from the National Geographic Society, "Ancient DNA Reveals Multiple Stages of Settlement in Europe, National Geographic’s Genographic Project Finds." Check out the latest scientific research paper on Central European genetic diversity, “Ancient DNA reveals key stages in the formation of Central European mitochondrial genetic diversity,” just published today, Oct. 10, 2013, by the journal Science.
New ancient-DNA research led by the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and researchers from the University of Mainz in Germany and the State Heritage Museum in Halle (Germany) showed a pattern of genetic replacement taking place across several millennia in a region of central Europe.
The genetic data reveal the complex dynamics that went into producing the present-day genetic patterns in Europe and show that the region that is now Germany saw at least four stages of significant migration and settlement, highlighted by marked shifts in the genetic composition of the populations in the region
When you see a pronounced cultural shift in the archaeological record, for instance, is it because of a new people appearing on the scene, or is it simply the diffusion of a new culture? This new Genographic study shows definitively that, for Germany over a four-millennia-long time span from 5500 B.C. to 1500 B.C., it was people who were on the move, carrying their genes with them.
“This is the largest and most detailed genetic time series of Europe yet created, allowing us to establish a complete genetic chronology,” said joint lead author and Genographic Project scientist Dr. Wolfgang Haak of ACAD, in the October 10, 2013 news release, Ancient DNA reveals multiple stages of settlement in Europe. “Focusing on this small but highly important geographic region meant we could generate a gapless record and directly observe genetic changes in ‘real time’ from 7,500 to 3,500 years ago, from the earliest farmers to the early Bronze Age.”
Genographic Project Director Spencer Wells says in the news release, “This is perhaps the most important study to date of genetic patterns in Europe during a critical period in the formation of modern Europe. Painstakingly collected data from well-dated archaeological remains spanning a period from the dawn of farming during the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age reveal successive waves of migration and population replacement genetic ‘revolutions’ that combined to create the genetic patterns we see today.”
DNA is used to study human origins and migrations
Representatives of the Genographic Project, which uses advanced, multi-locus DNA analyses to help answer fundamental questions about human origins, looked at the mitochondrial DNA control region sequences from remains of 364 people from different prehistoric time periods and cultures of Central Europe and performed a chronological genetic study that spanned more than 4,000 years.
The remains from each time period were associated with known archaeological cultures of that time. Likewise, each period’s remains were interpreted as indicative of that region’s genetic diversity at that time, thus constituting a distinct population from other time periods. Each population showed marked differences from the others from the same region. The director of the Genographic Project and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Washington, D.C., is Spencer Wells. The Genographic Project scientist, is Wolfgang Haak, Australian Center for Ancient DNA (ACAD), Adelaide, Australia.
Hunter-gatherer genes found in Central Europe today: Hunter-gatherer women sometimes married into the farming communities, whereas no genetic lines of farmer women have been found in hunter-gatherers.
Check out the study, "2000 Years of Parallel Societies in Stone Age Central Europe,"Science, October 11, 2013. The authors are Ruth Bollongino et al. Or see the October 10, 2013 news release, "Hunter-gatherers and immigrant farmers lived together for 2,000 years in Central Europe."
Hunter-gatherers and immigrant farmers lived together for 2,000 years in Central Europe. Stone Age parallel societies existed up to 5,000 years ago. And forager genes also are found in today's Europeans.
Indigenous hunter-gatherers and immigrant farmers lived side-by-side for more than 2,000 years in Central Europe, before the hunter-gatherer communities died out or adopted the agricultural lifestyle. The results come from a study undertaken by the Institute of Anthropology at the Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz (JGU) that has just been published in the journal Science.
A team led by Mainz anthropologist Professor Joachim Burger studied bones from the 'Blätterhöhle' cave near Hagen in Germany, where both hunter-gatherers and farmers were buried. "It is commonly assumed that the Central European hunter-gatherers disappeared soon after the arrival of farmers", said Dr. Ruth Bollongino, lead author of the study, according to the news release. "But our study shows that the descendants of Mesolithic Europeans maintained their hunter-gatherer way of life and lived in parallel with the immigrant farmers, for at least 2,000 years. The hunter-gathering lifestyle thus only died out in Central Europe around 5,000 years ago, much later than previously thought."
Until around 7,500 years ago all central Europeans were hunter-gatherers
They were the descendants of the first anatomically modern humans to arrive in Europe, around 45,000 years ago, who survived the last Ice Age and the warming that started around 10,000 years ago. But previous genetic studies by Professor Burger's group indicated that agriculture and a sedentary lifestyle were brought to Central Europe around 7,500 years ago by immigrant farmers. From that time on, little trace of hunter-gathering can be seen in the archaeological record, and it was widely assumed that the hunter-gatherers died out or were absorbed into the farming populations.
The relationship between these immigrant agriculturalists and local hunter-gatherers has been poorly researched to date. The Mainz anthropologists have now determined that the foragers stayed in close proximity to farmers, had contact with them for thousands of years, and buried their dead in the same cave.
This contact was not without consequences, because hunter-gatherer women sometimes married into the farming communities, while no genetic lines of farmer women have been found in hunter-gatherers. "This pattern of marriage is known from many studies of human populations in the modern world. Farmer women regarded marrying into hunter-gatherer groups as social anathema, maybe because of the higher birthrate among the farmers," explains Burger in the news release.
Mainz anthropologist, Professor Joachim Burger's palaeogenetics team is a worldwide leader in the field
For the study published in Science, the team examined the DNA from the bones from the 'Blätterhöhle' cave in Westphalia, which is being excavated by the Berlin archaeologist Jörg Orschiedt. It is one of the rare pieces of evidence of the continuing presence of foragers over a period of about 5,000 years.
For a long time the Mainz researchers were unable to make sense of the findings. "It was only through the analysis of isotopes in the human remains, performed by our Canadian colleagues, that the pieces of the puzzle began to fit," states Bollongino in the news release. "This showed that the hunter-gatherers sustained themselves in Central and Northern Europe on a very specialized diet that included fish, among other things, until 5,000 years ago.
The team also pursued the question of what impact both groups had on the gene pool of modern Europeans
Dr. Adam Powell, population geneticist at the JGU Institute of Anthropology, explains in the news release, "Neither hunter-gatherers nor farmers can be regarded as the sole ancestors of modern-day Central Europeans. European ancestry will reflect a mixture of both populations, and the ongoing question is how and to what extent this admixture happened."
It seems that the hunter-gatherers' lifestyle only died out in Central Europe 5,000 years ago. Agriculture and animal husbandry became the way of life from then on. However, some of the prehistoric farmers had foragers as ancestors, and the, hunter-gatherer genes are found in Central Europeans today. Check out the photo, "Palaeogenetic research in the ultra-clean laboratory at Mainz University."