The introduction of agriculture in Europe occurred around 8,500 years ago, changing not only the way of life of the continent’s inhabitants, but also their genes, according to new international scientific research, based on analysis of ancient DNA. The study also confirms that the first farmers in Europe came from ancient Anatolia (Eastern Turkey).
The researchers, led by Professor David Reich from the School of Medicine at Harvard University published their paper in the journal “Nature.” The team, which also included the Greek Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School Iosif Lazaridis, analyzed DNA samples from 230 skeletons of people who lived between 8,500 and 8500 years ago in Europe, Anatolia and in Siberia. This is the largest sample analysis that has ever taken place in Europe.
The study reveals that the introduction of agriculture in Europe, caused a series of sequential mutations in the genome of humans as a result of natural selection in the new environmental conditions. Among other things, genetic alterations were identified at the height of the first Neolithic farmers, their skin and eye color, their lactose tolerance, metabolism of fatty acids, vitamin D levels, immunity genes etc.
“We now have the first clear evidence that agriculture in Europe started with the first farmers coming from what is now Turkey. This is very exciting because there’s been a dispute for the last 40 years over whether that’s the case or not. Some have argued that it was diffusion of ideas but not of people. We now have the evidence that it was actually movement of people,” said Professor Ron Pinhasi, a lead researcher on the study from the School of Archaeology at the University College of Dublin.