How agriculture reached Europe from its origins in the Middle East some 11,000 years ago has remained a tantalizing mystery for scientists. Now a new DNA-based study suggests that Europe’s earliest farmers used two different routes.
According the magazine Science:
Some of this research, most notably in Germany, suggests that male farmers entering central Europe mated with local female hunter-gatherers ~ thus possibly resolving the contradiction between the Y chromosome and mtDNA results.
A team led by molecular anthropologist Marie Lacan of the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France, reports work on ancient DNA ~ both mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal ~ from more than two dozen skeletons found in the 1930s in a cave called Treilles in southern France. Archaeologists think Treilles is a communal gravesite because the bones add up to 149 individuals, 86 adults and 63 children.
They found that the female and male lineages seemed to have different origins. The mtDNA showed genetic markers previously identified as having deep roots in ancient European hunter-gatherer populations, but the Y chromosomes showed the closest affinities to Europeans currently living along the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe, such as Turkey, Cyprus, Portugal, and Italy.
The team also concluded that, in addition to the spread of farming into Central Europe suggested by the German studies, there appears to have been at least one additional route via southern Europe.
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