New study reveals Neolithic farmers assimilated local hunter-gatherers

New study reveals Neolithic farmers assimilated local hunter-gatherers

A new study published in the journal Science has revealed that Neolithic farmers assimilated local hunter-gatherers into their communities in Scandinavia, according to a new report in Phys Org . The research sheds new light on the transition between a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and an agricultural way of life.

Researchers at Uppsala University and Stockholm University conducted a genomic analysis of eleven Stone Age human remains from Scandinavia, dated to between 5,000 and 7,000 years old, in order to gain insight into prehistoric population structures. The remains belonged to individuals found on mainland Scandinavia, as well as from the Baltic island Gotland, and comprises of hunter-gatherers from various time periods as well as early farmers.

Ove och Evy Persson at Ajvide in Sweden. The skeleton is a young woman dated to 2700 BC. Credit: Goran Burenhult

The results revealed that expanding Stone Age farmers assimilated local hunter-gatherers into their community. In addition, Professor Mattias Jakobsson, who led the Uppsala University team, explained that: "Stone-Age hunter-gatherers had much lower genetic diversity than farmers. This suggests that Stone-Age foraging groups were in low numbers compared to farmers".

"The low variation in the hunter gatherers may be related to oscillating living conditions likely affecting the population sizes of hunter-gatherers. One of the additional exciting results is the association of the Mesolithic individual to both the roughly contemporaneous individual from Spain but also the association to the Neolithic hunter-gatherers," said Jan Storå from Stockholm University.

The study confirms that Stone-Age hunter-gatherers and farmers were genetically distinct and that migration spread farming practices across Europe, but the team was able to go even further by demonstrating that the Neolithic farmers had substantial admixture from hunter-gatherers.

"We see clear evidence that people from hunter-gatherer groups were incorporated into farming groups as they expanded across Europe", says Dr Pontus Skoglund of Uppsala University. "This might be clues towards something that happened also when agriculture spread in other parts of the world."

Previous analyses of the isotopes in the bones of the 11 Stone Age individuals also showed the hugely different diet the two groups had. The hunter-gatherers relied primarily on seals and fish, while the farmers ate mostly land protein – presumably from the animals that they took care of.

Anders Götherström, who led the Stockholm University team said, "We have only begun to scratch the surface of the knowledge that this project may bring us in the future". The research has been described as a breakthrough in understanding the demographic history of Stone Age humans.

Featured image: An artist’s depiction of ancient Neolithic farmers. Image source .


Neolithic Europe hunter-gatherers, farmers coexisted -- but no sex

Analysis of fossil skeletons unearthed in a cave in Germany revealed that the two populations remained mostly separate for two millennia, despite living in the same region.

"We thought up till now that shortly after the introduction of farming in central Europe all hunter-gatherers kind of vanished," said study co-author Ruth Bollongino, an archaeogeneticist at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany. "This is mainly because we hardly find any artifacts. We have absolutely no ongoing proof of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle after the early Neolithic," around the time when farmers were first migrating from the Middle East.

The findings were published Thursday in the journal Science. In a separate study in the same issue of Science, researchers found that by 3,500 years ago, all of the genetic makeup of modern Europe was mostly in place. [History's 10 Most Overlooked Mysteries]

Cave discovery
In 2004, archaeologists first discovered the Blätterhöhle, a long, narrow cave in Hagen, Germany, filled with more than 450 skeletal fragments that belonged to at least 29 individuals. Carbon isotope dating revealed the cave had been used in the Mesolithic period, between 9210 and 8340 B.C., and in the Neolithic period, between 3986 and 2918 B.C. The cool, dry environment provided perfect preservation conditions for the delicate DNA housed within the bones. [See Images of the Excavations]

Bollongino and her colleagues analyzed the fossils' mitochondrial DNA, genetic information carried in the cytoplasm of the cell that is passed on only from the mother, finding usable information in 25 of the individuals.

Separately, the researchers also analyzed carbon and nitrogen isotopes, or variants of the same elements with different molecular weights. Because different foods contain different ratios of heavy and light isotopes, the team was able to pinpoint the diets of the ancient people.

Fishers and farmers
Of the skeletons they analyzed, all five of the most ancient samples came from a genetic lineage associated with pre-farming hunter-gatherers. Of the Neolithic skeletons, eight had genetics consistent with farming, whereas 12 of the more modern samples had genetic lineages more consistent with belonging to a hunter-gatherer group.

Isotope analysis also revealed the latter group subsisted on a diet of mainly freshwater fish, while the farmers ate more domesticated animals. In addition, the analysis suggested people across the two groups rarely had sex with each other over a period spanning about 2,000 years.

The farmers and fishers shared the same burial place, so they must have had some contact, Bollongino said.

"I think it's very unlikely they did not know of each other or trade, but for some reason, they stayed amongst themselves," Bollongino told LiveScience.

Genetic melting pot

In the second study, researchers analyzed the mitochondrial DNA from more than 364 fossil remains found at more than 20 sites within the Saxony-Anhalt region of Germany, which dated to between 5500 and 1550 B.C.

The team concluded that the modern maternal genetic makeup of Europe was mostly in place by about 3,500 years ago, study co-author Wolfgang Haak, a molecular archaeologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, wrote in an email. The hunter-gatherers may have died out by that time or stuck around for a little while longer in isolation, but they did not contribute much of a genetic legacy to modern Europe.

Neolithic farmers were dominant for 2,500 years after the introduction of farming from the Middle East, though the new data can't reveal whether ancient Europeans truly vanished, or simply migrated to more isolated areas.

"In all likelihood (hunter-gatherers) must have retreated to areas that were less suitable for farming and where a (hunter-gatherer) subsistence could be sustained despite the (occasional) disturbance by farmers," Haak wrote.

Later, Scandinavian hunter-gatherers gradually assimilated into Neolithic farming culture, probably because the nomadic way of life became too difficult to sustain as farmers continued their expansion. Climate fluctuations may have also played a role, Haak said.


Stonehenge: DNA reveals origin of builders

Researchers compared DNA extracted from Neolithic human remains found across Britain with that of people alive at the same time in Europe.

The Neolithic inhabitants were descended from populations originating in Anatolia (modern Turkey) that moved to Iberia before heading north.

They reached Britain in about 4,000BC.

The migration to Britain was just one part of a general, massive expansion of people out of Anatolia in 6,000BC that introduced farming to Europe.

Before that, Europe was populated by small, travelling groups which hunted animals and gathered wild plants and shellfish.

One group of early farmers followed the river Danube up into Central Europe, but another group travelled west across the Mediterranean.

DNA reveals that Neolithic Britons were largely descended from groups who took the Mediterranean route, either hugging the coast or hopping from island-to-island on boats. Some British groups had a minor amount of ancestry from groups that followed the Danube route.

When the researchers analysed the DNA of early British farmers, they found they most closely resembled Neolithic people from Iberia (modern Spain and Portugal). These Iberian farmers were descended from people who had journeyed across the Mediterranean.

From Iberia, or somewhere close, the Mediterranean farmers travelled north through France. They might have entered Britain from the west, through Wales or south-west England. Indeed, radiocarbon dates suggest that Neolithic people arrived marginally earlier in the west, but this remains a topic for future work.

In addition to farming, the Neolithic migrants to Britain appear to have introduced the tradition of building monuments using large stones known as megaliths. Stonehenge in Wiltshire was part of this tradition.

Although Britain was inhabited by groups of "western hunter-gatherers" when the farmers arrived in about 4,000BC, DNA shows that the two groups did not mix very much at all.

The British hunter-gatherers were almost completely replaced by the Neolithic farmers, apart from one group in western Scotland, where the Neolithic inhabitants had elevated local ancestry. This could have come down to the farmer groups simply having greater numbers.

"We don't find any detectable evidence at all for the local British western hunter-gatherer ancestry in the Neolithic farmers after they arrive," said co-author Dr Tom Booth, a specialist in ancient DNA from the Natural History Museum in London.

"That doesn't mean they don't mix at all, it just means that maybe their population sizes were too small to have left any kind of genetic legacy."

Co-author Professor Mark Thomas, from UCL, said he also favoured "a numbers game explanation".

Professor Thomas said the Neolithic farmers had probably had to adapt their practices to different climatic conditions as they moved across Europe. But by the time they reached Britain they were already "tooled up" and well-prepared for growing crops in a north-west European climate.

The study also analysed DNA from these British hunter-gatherers. One of the skeletons analysed was that of Cheddar Man, whose skeletal remains have been dated to 7,100BC.

He was the subject of a reconstruction unveiled at the Natural History Museum last year. DNA suggests that, like most other European hunter-gatherers of the time, he had dark skin combined with blue eyes.

Genetic analysis shows that the Neolithic farmers, by contrast, were paler-skinned with brown eyes and black or dark-brown hair.

Towards the end of the Neolithic, in about 2,450BC, the descendants of the first farmers were themselves almost entirely replaced when a new population - called the Bell Beaker people - migrated from mainland Europe. So Britain saw two extreme genetic shifts in the space of a few thousand years.

Prof Thomas said that this later event happened after the Neolithic population had been in decline for some time, both in Britain and across Europe. He cautioned against simplistic explanations invoking conflict, and said the shifts ultimately came down to "economic" factors, about which lifestyles were best suited to exploit the landscape.

Dr Booth explained: "It's difficult to see whether the two [genetic shifts] could have anything in common - they're two very different kinds of change. There's speculation that they're to some extent population collapses. But the reasons suggested for those two collapses are different, so it could just be coincidence."


Heightened interaction between neolithic migrants and hunter-gatherers in Western Europe

Maps showing inherited genetic component from hunter-gatherer (blue) and Anatolian Neolithic (orange) populations along time slices. The expansion of the Anatolian component carried by Neolithic migrants and the differences in proportions observed regionally and chronologically illustrate the diversity of processes at work during the Neolithic expansion in Europe. Credit: Maïté Rivollat

The Neolithic lifestyle, including farming, animal domestication and the development of new technologies, emerged in the Near East around 12,000 years ago and contributed profoundly to the modern way of life. The Neolithic spread rapidly across Europe, mainly along the Danube valley and the Mediterranean coastline, reaching the Atlantic coast around 5000-4500 BCE. The existing archaeogenetic data from prehistoric European farmers indicates that the spread of farming is due to expanding populations of early farmers who mixed little, if at all, with indigenous hunter-gatherer groups. However, until now, no archaeogenetic data were available for France.

"France is where the two streams of the Neolithic expansion overlapped, so understanding how these groups interacted would fill in a big piece of the puzzle," says Wolfgang Haak, senior author of the study. "The data we're collecting suggests a more complex scenario than elsewhere in Europe, with more interaction between early farmers and hunter-gatherers."

These interactions seem to vary greatly from one region to another, attesting to a diverse cultural mosaic in early Neolithic Western Europe. In order to document the biological interactions during this transition period, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History teamed up with colleagues from the PACEA laboratory in Bordeaux, the CEPAM laboratory, the RGMZ, and other international partners. The study, published in Science Advances, reports new genome-wide data for 101 prehistoric individuals from 12 archaeological sites in today's France and Germany, dating from 7000-3000 BCE

High levels of hunter-gatherer ancestry in early farmers from France

The new results showed evidence for a higher level of admixture, or the combination of genetic information from genetically distant populations, between early migrant farmers and local hunter-gatherers in France. The genetic mixture in this region is unprecedented in the rest of Europe for the early stages of the Neolithic expansion. The genetic contribution of hunter-gatherers is particularly high in the south of France, roughly 31% on average, compared with 3% in Central Europe or 13% in the Iberian Peninsula.

The burial of Pendimoun F2 (5480-5360 BC), woman carrying about 55% of hunter-gatherer component. Credit: Henri Duday

Intriguingly, in an individual from the Pendimoun site in Provence (5480-5360 BCE), the genetic contribution of local hunter-gatherers was as high as 55%. The team could show that the admixture in this individual occurred recently, about four generations before, shortly after the first Neolithic farmers settled on that part of the French coast. "These findings suggest continuous contacts between both groups for at least a century," says Maïté Rivollat, postdoc in the INTERACT project and lead author of the study.

Genetic evidence for the two routes of the Neolithic expansion

Leveraging the genetic substructure observed in European hunter-gatherers, the team was able to retrace the dynamics of admixture in various European regions. Neolithic farmers in central Europe carry a very small hunter-gatherer component, which had already been mixed in and brought in from southeastern Europe. This accounts for the rapid spread of Neolithic groups with a negligible amount of interaction with local hunter-gatherers. On the other hand, Neolithic farmers from west of the Rhine river (in France, Spain, Great Britain) carry a genetic component inherited from local Mesolithic groups, implying a process of late and local admixture.

The new data highlight the complexity and regional variability of biological and cultural interactions between farmer and hunter-gatherer communities during the Neolithic expansion. "This study shows that we can add a lot more detail with focused sampling and unravel the regional dynamics of the farmer-forager interactions," concludes Rivollat. "With the increasing amount of genetic data, we gain the much-needed resolution to investigate biological processes in the past and to understand their relations with observed cultural phenomena."


First Anatolian Farmers Were Local Hunter-Gatherers That Adopted Agriculture

The burial of a 15,000 year old Anatolian hunter-gatherer.

An international team led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and in collaboration with scientists from the United Kingdom, Turkey and Israel, has analyzed eight prehistoric individuals, including the first genome-wide data from a 15,000-year-old Anatolian hunter-gatherer, and found that the first Anatolian farmers were direct descendants of local hunter-gatherers. These findings provide support for archaeological evidence that farming was adopted and developed by local hunter-gatherers who changed their subsistence strategy, rather than being introduced by a large movement of people from another area. Interestingly, while the study shows the long-term persistence of the Anatolian hunter-gatherer gene pool over 7,000 years, it also indicates a pattern of genetic interactions with neighboring groups.

Farming was developed approximately 11,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a region that includes present-day Iraq, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan as well as the fringes of southern Anatolia and western Iran. By about 8,300 BCE it had spread to central Anatolia, in present-day Turkey. These early Anatolian farmers subsequently migrated throughout Europe, bringing this new subsistence strategy and their genes. Today, the single largest component of the ancestry of modern-day Europeans comes from these Anatolian farmers. It has long been debated, however, whether farming was brought to Anatolia similarly by a group of migrating farmers from the Fertile Crescent, or whether the local hunter-gatherers of Anatolia adopted farming practices from their neighbors.

A new study by an international team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and in collaboration with scientists from the United Kingdom, Turkey and Israel, published in Nature Communications, confirms existing archaeological evidence that shows that Anatolian hunter-gatherers did indeed adopt farming themselves, and the later Anatolian farmers were direct descendants of a gene-pool that remained relatively stable for over 7,000 years.

Local hunter-gatherers adopted an agricultural lifestyle

For this study, the researchers newly analyzed ancient DNA from 8 individuals, and succeeded in recovering for the first time whole-genome data from a 15,000-year-old Anatolian hunter-gatherer. This allowed the team to compare that individual's DNA to later Anatolian farmers, as well as individuals from neighboring regions, to determine how they were related. They also compared the individuals newly analyzed in the study to existing data from 587 ancient individuals and 254 present-day populations.

The researchers found that the early Anatolian farmers derived the vast majority of their ancestry (

90 percent) from a population related to the Anatolian hunter-gatherer in the study. "This suggests a long-term genetic stability in central Anatolia over five millennia, despite changes in climate and subsistence strategy," explains Michal Feldman of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.


"Our results provide additional, genetic support for previous archaeological evidence that suggests that Anatolia was not merely a stepping stone in a movement of early farmers from the Fertile Crescent into Europe," states Choongwon Jeong of the Max Planck Institute of the Science of Human History, co-senior author of the study. "Rather, it was a place where local hunter-gatherers adopted ideas, plants and technology that led to agricultural subsistence."

Genetic interactions with neighbors warrant further study

In addition to the long-term stability of the major component of the Anatolian ancestry, the researchers also found a pattern of interactions with their neighbors. By the time that farming had taken hold in Anatolia between 8,300-7,800 BCE, the researchers found that the local population had about a 10 percent genetic contribution from populations related to those living in what is today Iran and the neighboring Caucasus, with almost the entire remaining 90 percent coming from Anatolian hunter-gatherers. By about 7000-6000 BCE, however, the Anatolian farmers derived about 20 percent of their ancestry from populations related to those living in the Levant region.

"There are some large gaps, both in time and geography, in the genomes we currently have available for study," explains Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, senior author on the study. "This makes it difficult to say how these more subtle genetic interactions took place—whether it was through short-term large movements of people, or more frequent but low-level interactions." The researchers hope that further research in this and neighboring regions could help to answer these questions.
Link


Heightened interaction between neolithic migrants and hunter-gatherers in Western Europe

Analyzing the first archaeogenetic data from the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Western Europe, a team of French and German researchers documents levels of admixture between expanding early Neolithic farmers and local hunter-gatherers seen nowhere els

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

IMAGE: The burial of Pendimoun F2 (5480-5360 BC), woman carrying about 55% of hunter-gatherer component. view more

The Neolithic lifestyle, including farming, animal domestication and the development of new technologies, emerged in the Near East around 12,000 years ago and contributed profoundly to the modern way of life. The Neolithic spread rapidly across Europe, mainly along the Danube valley and the Mediterranean coastline, reaching the Atlantic coast around 5000-4500 BCE. The existing archaeogenetic data from prehistoric European farmers indicates that the spread of farming is due to expanding populations of early farmers who mixed little, if at all, with indigenous hunter-gatherer groups. However, until now, no archaeogenetic data were available for France.

"France is where the two streams of the Neolithic expansion overlapped, so understanding how these groups interacted would fill in a big piece of the puzzle," says Wolfgang Haak, senior author of the study. "The data we're collecting suggests a more complex scenario than elsewhere in Europe, with more interaction between early farmers and hunter-gatherers."

These interactions seem to vary greatly from one region to another, attesting to a diverse cultural mosaic in early Neolithic Western Europe. In order to document the biological interactions during this transition period, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History teamed up with colleagues from the PACEA laboratory (1*) in Bordeaux, the CEPAM laboratory (2*), the RGZM (3*), and other international partners (4*). The study, published in Science Advances, reports new genome-wide data for 101 prehistoric individuals from 12 archaeological sites in today's France and Germany, dating from 7000-3000 BCE

High levels of hunter-gatherer ancestry in early farmers from France

The new results showed evidence for a higher level of admixture, or the combination of genetic information from genetically distant populations, between early migrant farmers and local hunter-gatherers in France. The genetic mixture in this region is unprecedented in the rest of Europe for the early stages of the Neolithic expansion. The genetic contribution of hunter-gatherers is particularly high in the south of France, roughly 31% on average, compared with 3% in Central Europe or 13% in the Iberian Peninsula.

Intriguingly, in an individual from the Pendimoun site in Provence (5480-5360 BCE), the genetic contribution of local hunter-gatherers was as high as 55%. The team could show that the admixture in this individual occurred recently, about four generations before, shortly after the first Neolithic farmers settled on that part of the French coast. "These findings suggest continuous contacts between both groups for at least a century," says Maïté Rivollat, postdoc in the INTERACT project and lead author of the study.

Genetic evidence for the two routes of the Neolithic expansion

Leveraging the genetic substructure observed in European hunter-gatherers, the team was able to retrace the dynamics of admixture in various European regions. Neolithic farmers in central Europe carry a very small hunter-gatherer component, which had already been mixed in and brought in from southeastern Europe. This accounts for the rapid spread of Neolithic groups with a negligible amount of interaction with local hunter-gatherers. On the other hand, Neolithic farmers from west of the Rhine river (in France, Spain, Great Britain) carry a genetic component inherited from local Mesolithic groups, implying a process of late and local admixture.

The new data highlight the complexity and regional variability of biological and cultural interactions between farmer and hunter-gatherer communities during the Neolithic expansion. "This study shows that we can add a lot more detail with focused sampling and unravel the regional dynamics of the farmer-forager interactions," concludes Rivollat. "With the increasing amount of genetic data, we gain the much-needed resolution to investigate biological processes in the past and to understand their relations with observed cultural phenomena."

(1*)de la Préhistoire à l'Actuel: Culture, Environnement et Anthropologie. Bordeaux, France

(2*)Cultures et environnements. Préhistoire, Antiquité Moyen Âge. Nice, France

(3*)Roemisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum / Leibniz Research Institute for Archaeology. Mainz, Germany

(4*)See list of authors. This study was funded by the Fyssen Foundation (MR, post-doctoral fellowship, 2017-2018), the New Faculty Startup Fund of the National University of Seoul (CJ), the Max Planck Society, the French (ANR) and German (DFG) Research Foundations, via the INTERACT project, ANR-17-FRAL-0010, DFG-HA-5407/4-1, 2018-2021 (MFD, WH, MR), and the European Research Council (ERC, 771234 - PALEoRIDER (WH, ABR)).

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.


Genetic Analysis Reveals Who Really Built Stonehenge

The people of Early Neolithic Britain, whose descendants went on to build Stonehenge, might not be who you thought they are.

Some 6,000 years ago, a wave of farmers from the Aegean coast in what is now modern-day Turkey traveled across mainland Europe, mingled around in the Mediterranean for some time, then made their way into Britain where they sparked the advent of agriculture on the island. Within a matter of centuries, they almost totally replaced the native "British" hunter-gatherer population.

Reporting in the journal Nature: Ecology & Evolution , a new study has analyzed the ancient DNA of dozens of people living in Britain between 8500 BCE and 2500 BCE, six of whom were Mesolithic hunter-gatherers (dating from 11,600-6,000 years ago) and 47 Neolithic farmers (dating from 6,000 to 4,500 years ago). One of these skeletons included Cheddar Man , the oldest near-complete human skeleton found in Britain.

The genetic evidence shows that most of the hunter-gatherer population of Britain were replaced by farmers carrying ancestry originating in the Aegean coast, whose genetic makeup closer matches up with today’s population in Spain and Portugal.

Left: Cheddar Man, an example of a Mesolithic Briton © Tom Barnes/Channel 4. Right: 3D reconstruction of Whitehawk Woman, an example of a Neolithic Britain from 5,600-years-ago © Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

Most importantly, they didn't just leave a genetic impression on Britain they also brought with them the game-changing art of agriculture, as well as other important cultural practices, such as new funerary rites, pottery, and monument building. Agriculture is first dated in Britain to around 6,000 years ago. Before that people fed themselves by hunting, fishing, and gathering.

“The transition to farming marks one of the most important technological innovations in human evolution. For over 100 years archaeologists have debated if it was brought to Britain by immigrant continental farmers, or it was adopted by local hunter-gatherers,” explained study author Mark Thomas, Professor of Genetics, Evolution & Environment at University College London, in a press release.

“Our study strongly supports the view that immigrant farmers introduced agriculture into Britain and largely replaced the indigenous hunter-gatherer populations."

Just like most other European hunter-gatherers, the Mesolithic Britons had dark skin and blue eyes. These genes were promptly wiped out after the arrival of the Aegean farmers, suggesting the native population was comparatively small and quickly mixed with the flocks of new-comers. The continental farmer populations also had their own long and thorny genetic heritage. On their journey from Turkey, they expanded along both the Mediterranean and Rhine-Danube in modern-day Germany, picking up ideas and genes along the way.

If this study proves anything, it shows that the history of migration and genetic heritage, in Europe and beyond, is a lot more interwoven and complex that it's often made out to be.


Ancient DNA evidence shows hunter-gatherers and farmers were intimately linked

Credit: The authors of the reconstructions are Serrulla y Sanín, and the original source is: Serrulla, F., and Sanín, M. (2017). Forensic anthropological report of Elba. Cadernos do Laboratorio Xeolóxico de.

In human history, the transition from hunting and gathering to farming is a significant one. As such, hunter-gatherers and farmers are usually thought about as two entirely different sets of people. But researchers reporting new ancient DNA evidence in Current Biology on May 25 show that in the area we now recognize as Romania, at least, hunter-gatherers and farmers were living side by side, intermixing with each other, and having children.

"We expected some level of mixing between farmers and hunter-gatherers, given the archaeological evidence for contact among these communities," says Michael Hofreiter of University of Potsdam in Germany. "However, we were fascinated by the high levels of integration between the two communities as reconstructed from our ancient DNA data."

The findings add evidence to a longstanding debate about how the Neolithic transition, when people gave up hunting and gathering for farming, actually occurred, the researchers say. In those debates, the question has often been about whether the movement of people or the movement of ideas drove the transition.

Earlier evidence suggested that the Neolithic transition in Western Europe occurred mostly through the movement of people, whereas cultural diffusion played a larger role to the east, in Latvia and Ukraine. The researchers in the new study were interested in Romania because it lies between these two areas, presenting some of the most compelling archaeological evidence for contact between incoming farmers and local hunter-gatherers.

Indeed, the new findings show that the relationship between hunter-gatherers and farmers in the Danube basin can be more nuanced and complex. The movement of people and the spread of culture aren't mutually exclusive ideas, the researchers say, "but merely the ends of a continuum."

The researchers came to this conclusion after recovering four ancient human genomes from Romania spanning a time transect between 8.8 thousand and 5.4 thousand years ago. The researchers also analyzed two Mesolithic (hunter-gatherer) genomes from Spain to provide further context.

The DNA revealed that the Romanian genomes from thousands of years ago had significant ancestry from Western hunter-gatherers. However, they also had a lesser but still sizeable contribution from Anatolian farmers, suggesting multiple admixture events between hunter-gatherers and farmers. An analysis of the bones also showed they ate a varied diet, with a combination of terrestrial and aquatic sources.

"Our study shows that such contacts between hunter-gatherers and farmers went beyond the exchange of food and artefacts," Hofreiter says. "As data from different regions accumulate, we see a gradient across Europe, with increasing mixing of hunter-gatherers and farmers as we go east and north. Whilst we still do not know the drivers of this gradient, we can speculate that, as farmers encountered more challenging climatic conditions, they started interacting more with local hunter-gatherers. These increased contacts, which are also evident in the archaeological record, led to genetic mixing, implying a high level of integration between very different people."

The findings are a reminder that the relationships within and among people in different places and at different times aren't simple. It's often said that farmers moved in and outcompeted hunter-gatherers with little interaction between the two. But the truth is surely much richer and more varied than that. In some places, as the new evidence shows, incoming farmers and local hunter-gatherers interacted and mixed to a great extent. They lived together, despite large cultural differences.

Understanding the reasons for why the interactions between these different people led to such varied outcomes, Hofreiter says, is the next big step. The researchers say they now hope to use ancient DNA evidence to add more chapters to the story as they explore the Neolithic transition as it occurred in other parts of the world, outside of Europe.

This research was primarily supported by the European Research Council.

Current Biology, Gonzalez-Fortes and Jones et al.: "Paleogenomic Evidence for Multi-generational Mixing between Neolithic Farmers and Mesolithic Hunter-Gatherers in the Lower Danube Basin" http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17)30559-6

Current Biology (@CurrentBiology), published by Cell Press, is a bimonthly journal that features papers across all areas of biology. Current Biology strives to foster communication across fields of biology, both by publishing important findings of general interest and through highly accessible front matter for non-specialists. Visit: http://www. cell. com/ current-biology. To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact [email protected]

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.


First Anatolian Farmers Were Local Hunter-Gatherers That Adopted Agriculture

The first farmers from Anatolia, who brought farming to Europe and represent the single largest ancestral component in modern-day Europeans, are directly descended from local hunter-gatherers who adopted a farming way of life.

An international team, led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and in collaboration with scientists from the United Kingdom, Turkey and Israel, has analyzed 8 pre-historic individuals, including the first genome-wide data from a 15,000-year-old Anatolian hunter-gatherer, and found that the first Anatolian farmers were direct descendants of local hunter-gatherers. These findings provide support for archaeological evidence that farming was adopted and developed by local hunter-gatherers who changed their subsistence strategy, rather than being introduced by a large movement of people from another area. Interestingly, while the study shows the long-term persistence of the Anatolian hunter-gatherer gene pool over 7,000 years, it also indicates a pattern of genetic interactions with neighboring groups.

Farming was developed approximately 11,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a region that includes present-day Iraq, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan as well as the fringes of southern Anatolia and western Iran. By about 8,300 BCE it had spread to central Anatolia, in present-day Turkey. These early Anatolian farmers subsequently migrated throughout Europe, bringing this new subsistence strategy and their genes. Today, the single largest component of the ancestry of modern-day Europeans comes from these Anatolian farmers. It has long been debated, however, whether farming was brought to Anatolia similarly by a group of migrating farmers from the Fertile Crescent, or whether the local hunter-gatherers of Anatolia adopted farming practices from their neighbors.

A new study by an international team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and in collaboration with scientists from the United Kingdom, Turkey and Israel, published in Nature Communications, confirms existing archaeological evidence that shows that Anatolian hunter-gatherers did indeed adopt farming themselves, and the later Anatolian farmers were direct descendants of a gene-pool that remained relatively stable for over 7,000 years.

Local hunter-gatherers adopted an agricultural lifestyle

The burial of a 15,000 year old Anatolian hunter-gatherer.

For this study, the researchers newly analyzed ancient DNA from 8 individuals, and succeeded in recovering for the first time whole-genome data from a 15,000-year-old Anatolian hunter-gatherer. This allowed the team to compare that individual’s DNA to later Anatolian farmers, as well as individuals from neighboring regions, to determine how they were related. They also compared the individuals newly analyzed in the study to existing data from 587 ancient individuals and 254 present-day populations.

The researchers found that the early Anatolian farmers derived the vast majority of their ancestry (

90%) from a population related to the Anatolian hunter-gatherer in the study. “This suggests a long-term genetic stability in central Anatolia over five millennia, despite changes in climate and subsistence strategy,” explains Michal Feldman of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

“Our results provide additional, genetic support for previous archaeological evidence that suggests that Anatolia was not merely a stepping stone in a movement of early farmers from the Fertile Crescent into Europe,” states Choongwon Jeong of the Max Planck Institute of the Science of Human History, co-senior author of the study. “Rather, it was a place where local hunter-gatherers adopted ideas, plants and technology that led to agricultural subsistence.”

Genetic interactions with neighbors warrant further study

In addition to the long-term stability of the major component of the Anatolian ancestry, the researchers also found a pattern of interactions with their neighbors. By the time that farming had taken hold in Anatolia between 8,300-7,800 BCE, the researchers found that the local population had about a 10% genetic contribution from populations related to those living in what is today Iran and the neighboring Caucasus, with almost the entire remaining 90% coming from Anatolian hunter-gatherers. By about 7000-6000 BCE, however, the Anatolian farmers derived about 20% of their ancestry from populations related to those living in the Levant region.

“There are some large gaps, both in time and geography, in the genomes we currently have available for study,” explains Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, senior author on the study. “This makes it difficult to say how these more subtle genetic interactions took place – whether it was through short-term large movements of people, or more frequent but low-level interactions.” The researchers hope that further research in this and neighboring regions could help to answer these questions.


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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”


Watch the video: From Hunter-Gatherer to Farmer Part 1