A new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, provides the first detailed genetic history of Europe.
National Geographic reports: Rather than a single or a few migration events, Europe was occupied several times, in waves, by different groups, from different directions and at different times.
The first modern humans to reach Europe arrived from Africa 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. By about 30,000 years ago, they were widespread throughout the area while their close cousins, the Neanderthals, disappeared. Hardly any of these early hunter-gatherers carried the H haplogroup in their DNA.
About 7,500 years ago during the early Neolithic period, another wave of humans expanded into Europe, this time from the Middle East. They carried in their genes a variant of the H haplogroup, and in their minds knowledge of how to grow and raise crops.
Archeologists call these first Central European farmers the linear pottery culture (LBK) — so named because their pottery often had linear decorations.
The genetic evidence shows that the appearance of the LBK farmers and their unique H haplogroups coincided with a dramatic reduction of the U haplogroup—the dominant haplogroup among the hunter-gatherers living in Europe at that time.
The findings settle a longstanding debate among archaeologists, said Wells, who is also a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.
Archaeology alone can’t determine whether cultural movements — such as a new style of pottery or, in this case, farming—were accompanied by the movements of people, Wells said in an email.
“In this study we show that changes in the European archaeological record are accompanied by genetic changes, suggesting that cultural shifts were accompanied by the migration of people and their DNA.”
The LBK group and its descendants were very successful and spread quickly across Europe. “They became the first pan-European culture, if you like,” Cooper said.
Given their success, it would be natural to assume that members of the LBK culture were significant genetic ancestors of many modern Europeans.
But the team’s genetic analysis revealed a surprise: About 6,500 years ago in the mid-Neolithic, the LBK culture was itself displaced. Their haplogroup H types suddenly became very rare, and they were subsequently replaced by populations bearing a different set of haplogroup H variations. [Continue reading…]