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A new study reveals our Scandinavian ancestors

A new study reveals our Scandinavian ancestors

Photo: Sayo Studio/Nature

Since the last Ice Age, Scandinavia has experienced almost two population exchanges. The Last Great Migration is still clearly visible in our current gene pool. This is what a new study published in nature In which many archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg participated.

The scientific study “100 ancient genomes show recurring population shifts in Neolithic Denmark” is one of four articles published simultaneously in nature The research is based on analyzes of DNA and nutritional markers from the remains of 100 teeth and bones found in Denmark, the University of Gothenburg writes.

The skeletons date back to a period of 7,300 years spanning the Mesolithic (Stone Age of hunters), Neolithic (Younger Stone Age), and Early Bronze Age. The oldest belongs to the so-called Kohlberg man, who lived about 10,000 years ago.

– In the past, it was assumed that we Nordic people descend from Stone Age hunter-gatherers, but now this has been completely reversed, says Christian Christiansen, professor of archeology at the University of Gothenburg.

Christiansen led the study with Eske Willerslev, Thomas Werg, and Morten Allentoft of the University of Copenhagen. Karl-Göran Sjogren and Bettina Schulz Paulsson from the University of Gothenburg also participated in the study.

– What I did was design the C14 dating model, so that there would be a more accurate chronology of Neolithic genes. Using the C14 model, for example, we were able to put that time period at about 1,000 years, says Bettina Schulz Paulson.

Analysis of the 100 prehistoric skeletons shows that our closest genetic relatives are actually the Yamnaya people – a group of cattle herders from the Pontic steppe, a region that today includes Ukraine, southwestern Russia and western Kazakhstan. These elements were mixed to some extent with agricultural groups in Eastern Europe to form the so-called cord ceramic complex. These groups then migrated to northern Europe less than 5,000 years ago, during the Neolithic Age, and settled in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. In Sweden it is called the battle ax culture and in Denmark it is called the single grave culture.

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“Genetically, we are fairly similar to what we are today,” Christiansen says.

Another discovery relates to the population exchange that has occurred since the last ice age in Scandinavia. Researchers have been able to prove that almost complete population change occurred twice in just a thousand years. The first case occurred about 5,900 years ago, at the beginning of the Neolithic. When farmers immigrated to Denmark, the hunting and fishing community known as the pea culture completely disappeared.

The new culture was composed of farmers with genetic roots in the Middle East – in Anatolia, the Asian part of present-day Turkey – and who mixed their genes somewhat with the hunter-gatherers they encountered on their journey across Europe. It was this culture that introduced agriculture, and as farmers they ate a very different diet from the hunter-gatherers they displaced, analyzes of historical bone fragments show.

5,000 years ago, the next population turnover occurred, when potters with a genetic background entered Eastern Europe.

– In about 2800 BC, thread pottery, also known as the single grave culture, migrated to Denmark, says archaeologist Karl Göran Sjogren.

It is unclear what happened to the people of Ertebol, but Christian Christiansen and Karl-Göran Sjogren have slightly different hypotheses. The first is that they retreated to Norway and continued to hunt and fish there, but some may have isolated themselves in shelters where they lived for a few generations.

– Regarding the agricultural population, also called the Funnel Cup culture, their women in particular seem to have married into immigrant groups, while the male genes of the agricultural population eventually disappeared completely, says Christian Christiansen.

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– Analyzes show that this was a violent cultural conflict because cord ceramics relatively quickly wiped out farmers from Anatolia. Just as effectively when farmers wiped out hunter-gatherers 900 years ago.


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