A recent British study refutes a theory that most of the European men are the descendants of farmers who had migrated to Europe from the Near East 5 – 10 thousand years ago. The results of the research conducted by scientists from different parts of the world are published in the magazine “Proceedings of the Royal Society B”.
The data gathered by the research group deviates from that of previous studies, which stated that the genetic signature of the mentioned farmers prevails over that of aboriginal Europeans-hunters. Now, experts argue that the majority of European men indeed descend from hunters who lived in the Stone Age.
The cultural shock of the Neolithic
Archaeological findings tell us that the ancestors of modern humans first moved to the territory of Europe around 40 thousand years ago in the Paleolithic. About 20 thousand years ago, European hunter-gatherers survived an ice age by moving to the southern, warmer areas of the continent. As soon as the climate went back to its former state, those populations returned to the north of Europe.
Several thousand years later, Europe went through a cultural shock as farmers from the territory of modern Turkey arrived in their land, bringing along with them their unseen trade relations and the lifestyle. Whether or not the genome of European hunter gatherers is prevalent over that of the arrived farmers is a subject of debate. The results of studies vary depending on the interpretation of the results and on the examined genetic markers.
Where did the chromosome travel?
Over the course of the recent British study was examined the Y chromosome, which is passed almost unchanged from father to son in humans. Y chromosomes of modern men can be classified into several types and relative groups, which to some extent reflect their geographical distribution. The haplogroup R-M269 can be found in over 100 million European men, so in order to determine the place of origin of the Europeans, it is necessary to trace this sub-clade of the Y chromosome.
R-M269 is most spread in Western Europe: in particular, it can be found in more than 90% of men in Spain, Ireland, and Wales. However, Patricia Balaresque in her 2010 study (conducted in cooperation with other scientific experts from the University of Leicester) writes that the genetic diversity of R-M269 increases among Eastern European men and reaches its peak in Anatolia. The diversity increases along with the age of the genealogical branch. The study team from the University of Leicester found that the age of R-M269 among various European populations more or less coincided with the period of resettlement of Europeans, which occurred 5 – 10 thousand years ago in the Neolithic. These results would be corroborated with newer studies published in August 2010 and June 2011.
On the other hand, a newer study conducted by Cristian Capelli and George Busby from the Oxford University examined 4,500 men from Europe and western Asia didn’t detect visible differences in R-M269 from different areas. Had this haplogroup spread after the arrival of the Anatolian farmers, a certain geographical dependence would be clear.
Capelli and Busby assumed that not all markers of R-M269 are equally reliable in estimating the age of the DNA, so modern methods of interpretation are not suitable for determining the time frame in which this haplogroup spread. Capelli emphasized that the analysis carried out by the group cannot yet determine when precisely R-M269 made its way to Europe.
Read also additional information in the section “Genetics“ with references to the primary sources of DNA tests