Immigrants converted Europe from stone age hunting to farming


London : Early farmers probably migrated to central and eastern Europe about 7,500 years ago, bringing domesticated plants and animals with them, which replaced stone age hunting, says a new study.

Support TwoCircles

Researchers analysed 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 to genetically link hunter-gatherers and the early farmers, and 82 percent of the types of DNA found in the hunter-gatherers are relatively rare in central Europeans today.

For more than a century archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, and more recently, geneticists, have argued about who the ancestors of Europeans living today were.

Now, a team from Mainz University in Germany, together with researchers from University College London and Cambridge, have found that the first farmers in central and northern Europe could not have been the descendents of the hunter-gatherers that came before them.

“This is really odd,” said Mark Thomas, professor and population geneticist at UCL and co-author of the study.

“For the first time we are now able to directly compare the genes of these Stone Age Europeans, and what we find is that some DNA types just aren’t there – despite being common in Europeans today.”

Modern humans arrived in Europe 45,000 years ago and replaced the Neanderthals. 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, said a Mainz University statement.

“Our analysis shows that there is no direct continuity between hunter-gatherers and farmers in Central Europe,” says Joachim Burger, professor at Mainz. “As the hunter-gatherers were there first, the farmers must have immigrated into the area.”