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Genome of early European settlers traced back to early farmers of contemporary Turkey

Posted August 5, 2016

Some time ago it was commonly believed that as soon as hunters-gatherers started farming they stopped travelling. Nowadays it is clear that this change did not happen that suddenly. A new ancient genomes study, conducted by an international team of scientists, revealed that hunter-gatherers experimented with farming in turkey before migrating to Europe.

Remains of individuals from the Boncuklu community allowed scientists to perform impressive DNA analysis. Image credit: Douglas Baird,

Remains of individuals from the Boncuklu community allowed scientists to perform impressive DNA analysis. Image credit: Douglas Baird,

A team of researchers from Stockholm University and Uppsala University in Sweden and Middle East Technical University in Turkey found that there were at least two waves of early settlers in Europe that belong to the same gene pool as farmers in Central Turkey. This provides evidence that early European residents had ancestors between the people who cultivated crops outside of Mesopotamia.

This research compared early European settlers from the late Stone Age, 10,000–4,000 years ago, to the remains of nine people excavated in two ancient settlements in Anatolia. Four of these individuals were from the Boncuklu community, which showed some efforts of farming, and the other five were from Tepecik-Çiftlik villagers, who were much better at agriculture.

Boncuklu people actually were still gathering – they did not even have domestic animals. In fact, it could be said that these communities were more hunter-gatherers who were only experimenting with farming. Anders Götherström, one of the authors of the study, said: “What happened here was most likely an increase in population size, with increasing fecundity, and higher levels of mobility and gene flow so that, over time, Neolithic Near Eastern villages became more cosmopolitan, and this eventually triggered expansion into Europe”.

It is the first study of its kind to take a look into gene pools of these communities and early European settlers. Studying genes of so long dead people recently was impossible and only new advancements made it such a useful research tool. This study helps answering some questions about how farming practices spread into Europe, but what happened in the East is still unknown.

Scientists have ideas for future studies. They want to see how people moved and how genetic connections and cultural connections overlap through human history. It is important to improve the method so that agricultural revolution can be similarly researched elsewhere as well.


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