A federal origin of Stone Age farming
The transition from hunter-gatherer to sedentary farming 10,000 years ago occurred in multiple neighbouring but genetically distinct populations according to research by an international team including UCL.
The study, published today in Science and funded by Wellcome and Royal Society, examined ancient DNA from some of the world’s first farmers from the Zagros region of Iran and found it to be very different from the genomes of early farmers from the Aegean and Europe. The team identified similarities between the Neolithic farmer’s DNA and that of living people from southern Asia, including from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iranian Zoroastrians in particular.
“We know that farming technologies, including various domestic plants and animals, arose across the Fertile Crescent, with no particular centre” added co-author Professor Mark Thomas, UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment.
“But to find that this region was made up of highly genetically distinct farming populations was something of a surprise. We estimated that they separated some 46 to 77,000 years ago, so they would almost certainly have looked different, and spoken different languages. It seems like we should be talking of a federal origin of farming.”
|An approximately 10,000 year old skull from the Neolithic Tepe Abdul Hossein |
[Credit: © Fereidoun Biglari, National Museum of Iran]
Animals and plants were first domesticated across a region stretching north from modern-day Israel, Palestine and Lebanon to Syria and eastern Turkey, then east into, northern Iraq and north-western Iran, and south into Mesopotamia; a region known as the Fertile Crescent.
“Such was the impact of farming on our species that archaeologists have debated for more than 100 years how it originated and how it was spread into neighbouring regions such as Europe, North Africa and southern Asia,” said co-author Professor Stephen Shennan, UCL Institute of Archaeology.
“We’ve shown for the first time that different populations in different parts of the Fertile Crescent were coming up with similar solutions to finding a successful way of life in the new conditions created by the end of the last Ice Age.”
|Analysis of ancient DNA in the laboratory [Credit: ©: JGU Palaeogenetics Group]|
“Early farmers from across Europe, and to some extent modern-day Europeans, can trace their DNA to early farmers living in the Aegean, whereas people living in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India share considerably more long chunks of DNA with early farmers in Iran. This genetic legacy of early farmers persists, although of course our genetic make-up subsequently has been reshaped by many millennia of other population movements and intermixing of various groups,” concluded Dr Hellenthal.
Source: University College London [July 14, 2016]