Europe's earliest farmers were direct descendants of Neolithic Aegeans

A recent study suggests that early European farmers have an almost broken tail of ancestry leading back to the Aegeans.

A recent study suggests that farming was brought to Europe as a new strategy for survival by direct descendants of the Aegeans. There has been a long-standing debate surrounding the origins of the first European farmers. An international team of researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz published a study showing how early European farmers have an almost unbroken trail of ancestry leading back to the Aegean.

Europe was inhabited sole by 'hunter-gatherers' for the majority of the last 45,000 years. Approximately 8,500 years ago, farming began to spread across Europe from Turkey, reaching central Europe 7,500 years ago and Britain 6,100 years ago. This new strategy led to key changes in society, including increased population density, new diseases, and poorer health. The significant impact that farming has had on how we live has led scientists to debate for over 100 years about how it spread across Europe.

The team of scientists analysed DNA from early farmer skeletons from Greece and Turkey. This study shows that the Neolithic settlers from northern Greece and the Marmara Sea region of western Turkey reached central Europe via a Balkan route and the Iberian Peninsula via a Mediterranean route. These groups brought sedentary life, agriculture, and domestic animals and plants to Europe.

According to the study there was a lack of breeding between farmers and hunter-gatherers. Lead researcher and anthropologist, Joachim Burger, stated "They exchanged cultural heritage and knowledge, but rarely spouses".

This study used genomic analysis to confirm a long-standing debate about the origins of the first European farmers by showing that the ancestry of Central and Southwestern Europeans can be traced directly back to Greece and north-western Anatolia.

Sedentary life, farming, and animal husbandry were already present 10,000 years ago in a region covering modern-day Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq. It is not yet established whether the first farmers initially came from this region, however the study shows that this group of people colonised Europe through northern Aegean. Mark Thomas, co-author of the study, believes that the debate on how farming spread across Europe is now over.

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