Ancient DNA Study Revealed That Farming Was Brought To Britain By Migrants

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Scientists analyzed ancient DNA, and they made an exciting discovery about farming in Britain. The DNA of 53 skeletons was examined. Forty-seven were farmers from Neolithic, while six of them were Mesolithic hunters.

“We looked at the genetic ancestry of human remains from both before and after 6,000 years ago – so some dating to the Mesolithic and some to the Neolithic – to see if we can characterize any changes, as soon as these Neolithic cultures start to arrive, we see a big change in the ancestry of the British population. It looks like the development of farming, and these Neolithic cultures was mainly driven by the migration of people from mainland Europe,” explained Natural History Museum postdoctoral researcher Dr. Tom Booth.

Researchers discovered that the origins of the farmers seem to be in the Near East, while the hunter-gatherer population in Britain was replaced by people originally from the Aegean.

Migrants brought farming to Britain, according to a new study on ancient DNA

“Because continental farmer populations had mixed to some extent with local hunter-gatherers as they expanded along both the Mediterranean and Rhine-Danube corridors, as well as later, we expected to see some mixing in Britain as well,” explained professor Ian Barnes, who is one of the study’s co-authors and a DNA expert at the Natural History Museum.

Therefore, scientists concluded that the populations from early Neolithic came from the Aegean coast, and they were the ones who brought farming, as well as other specific cultural elements, including pottery and funerary rites. However, it took 1000 years for them to establish in Britain, and this is a bit harder to explain.

“The transition to farming marks one of the most important technological innovations in human evolution. It first appeared in Britain around 6000 years ago; before that, ancient humans survived by hunting, fishing, and gathering. For over 100 years archaeologists have debated if it was brought to Britain by immigrant continental farmers, or local hunter-gatherers adopted it. “Our study strongly supports the view that immigrant farmers introduced agriculture into Britain and largely replaced the indigenous hunter-gatherers populations,” concluded professor Mark Thomas, one of the authors of the study.


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