New DNA evidence indicates immigrants from the ancient Near East brought farming to Europe and spread the practice to the region's hunter-gatherer communities. The new genetic study adds crucial information about how farming was introduced to Europe's nomadic hunter-gatherer societies almost 8,000 years ago.
An international research team has compared ancient DNA from the remains of Early Neolithic farmers at a burial site in central Germany with a large genetic database of European and Eurasian populations. They found a unique genetic signature suggesting "significant demographic input from the Near East during the onset of farming.”
Sometimes referred to as the Fertile Crescent, the Near East would include modern-day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
The revolutionary element of this study was the addition of ancient DNA, explains Alan Cooper, director of the Centre for Ancient DNA, as previously researchers could only use genetic data from modern populations to examine this question.
"We have never had a detailed genetic view of one of these early farming populations - there's been a lot of inference around it, but it's all been guesswork" he says.
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