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Ancient Farmers Replaced Hunter-Gatherer Forerunners


Aug 19, 2003
Published online: 10 November 2005;
| doi:10.1038/news051107-10

Did pioneer farmers fail to spread their seed?
European immigrants may have passed on agricultural skills, but not their genes.
Charlotte Schubert

The bones of farmers from 7,500 years ago hold clues to European ancestry.

© Science

A group of travellers brought farming to Europe about 7,500 years ago. But did their children thrive and hand down the skill? Researchers studying ancient DNA say instead that the idea was stolen by more successful locals, as the farmers failed to leave their mark on Europe's genes.

The finding adds to a debate about Europeans' origins that "has been raging for the past ten years", says Peter Forster, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge. Scientists have turned to archaeology and analyses of modern DNA to try and settle the question, but they come up with contradictory results1,2.

Some say that today's Europeans arose mostly from a population of hunter-gatherers who appeared on the continent up to 40,000 years ago, and who later won a genetic war against incoming farmers.

Others say that the agricultural arrivals, who came west from the fertile lands encompassing modern countries such as Egypt, Turkey and Iran, contributed substantially to the genetic make-up of the continent's population.

Forster and his colleagues weigh in on the side of the hunter-gatherers with their analysis of ancient DNA, reported in Science this week3.

Going, going, gone

The researchers, led by Joachim Burger at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, extracted DNA from the bone and teeth of farmers buried in archaeological sites scattered throughout modern-day Germany, Hungary and Austria. Pottery and other artefacts identified the sites as farming land.

The investigators sequenced pieces of mitochondrial DNA in part because the genetic material in a corpse disintegrates over time: with thousands of mitochondria crammed into each cell, enough DNA often survives for analysis. Of the 57 individuals tested, 24 yielded usable DNA despite their age.

Six of these ancient farmers, found in three different sites, had a mitochondrial DNA type called N1a. This type is present in only 0.2% of people living in the region today.

This discussion has been raging for the past ten years.

Peter Forster
University of Cambridge

"The farmers were really a pioneer group and didn't leave much of a mark," concludes Forster.

It could be a statistical fluke that the researchers stumbled on a large percentage of people with type N1a in their relatively small sample, admits Forster. But the fact that they came from three different areas adds to the likelihood that N1a really was more common among the farmers than it is today.

The researchers also ran a computer simulation suggesting that N1a type was probably not lost over time by chance.

What's your type?

"The study does not resolve the puzzle, but their interpretation is in line with what a lot of people, including me, have been suggesting for quite some time," says Antonio Torroni, a geneticist from the University of Pavia, Italy.

But Terry Brown, a geneticist from the University of Manchester, UK, calls the conclusions "a little bit tenuous". Brown points out that the study examines events in only one geographic region.


"During the 3,000 years in which agriculture spread into Europe, many different things were happening," says Brown. In some areas, hunter-gatherers probably picked up farming quickly; in others, farmers may have overrun the locals. "I don't think you can generalize," he says.

It is also difficult to explain the observation that N1a is not prevalent today in countries such as Iran, although the data for this are sparse. To facilitate a better analysis of current N1a prevalence and origins, Forster and his colleagues have started a project called Genetic Ancestor, through which members of the public can pay to have their DNA analyzed; the customers get information about their ancestry and the researchers build a genetic database.

Researchers on both sides say the debate could be clarified by data from the bones of the hunter-gatherers. But viable DNA from such bones is in very short supply.

http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051107/ ... 07-10.html

Gibbons A. Science, 290. 1080 - 1081 (2000).
Chikhi L. PNAS, 99. 11008 - 11013 (2002).
Haak W., et al. Science, 310. 1016 - 1018 (2005).
http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051107/ ... 07-10.html
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Europe's first farmers replaced their Stone Age hunter-gatherer forerunners

(PhysOrg.com) -- DNA study suggests that further waves of prehistoric immigration are waiting to be discovered. Central and northern Europe's first farmers were immigrants with barely any ancestral ties to the modern population, a study has found.

Researchers used DNA taken from the remains of farmers who worked the land more than 7,000 years ago to discover that they were not related to the hunter-gatherers who inhabited Europe previously. Instead, they probably belonged to an immigrant population, possibly from south-eastern Europe.

The study also found that the ancient hunter-gatherers do share their predominant DNA type with some modern Europeans, unlike the agriculturalists who arrived in Europe at a later stage. Neither group, however, explains the genetic make-up of much of Europe's current population, which indicates that there were other waves of prehistoric migration that still remain uncharted.

The findings are being published in the journal Science and will be released on Thursday (September 3rd) online through Science Express. They appear to resolve an enduring debate about how farming, one of the great "civilising" revolutions in human history, spread in Europe.

Generations of scholars have puzzled over whether the change in lifestyle from hunter-gatherer to farmer was brought to Europe by new people, or whether only the idea of farming spread. The new report provides persuasive evidence that it arrived in central Europe with a wave of immigrants approximately 7,500 years ago.

The study was led by academics from the University of Cambridge, Mainz University in Germany and University College London. Researchers compared new mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from late European hunter-gatherers (up to 13,000 years old) with sequences from early farmers (7,500 years old), as well as with sequences from modern Europeans.

They found significant genetic differences between all three groups which cannot be explained by population continuity. Most (82%) of the hunter-gatherers share a genetic lineage known as "U", which is still found today in a minority of Europeans - about 5% of Mediterranean people, increasing northwards to 20-40% of traditional tribes in north-eastern Russia and Finland, such as the Saami.

The major DNA type among the farmers, however, was type N1a, which is exceptionally rare, found in less than 0.2% of the European population. The fact that this lineage was not shared with the hunter-gatherers means that the farmers were immigrants who, at least initially, did not mix with the existing population of Europe at the time.

"It is exciting to confirm that many Europeans today, especially in the north and north-east, carry ice-age hunter lineages," Dr Peter Forster, of the Cambridge Society for the Application of Research, Churchill College, University of Cambridge, said.

"A new puzzle emerges, however. Neither the hunter-gatherers nor the early farmer DNA can account for all European genetic variants today. It seems we need to look for more major, unidentified migrations into, or within, prehistoric Europe. These additional waves might have consisted of secondary farming movements or of later metalworkers."

Humans first arrived in Europe 45,000 years ago, replacing a Neanderthal population. A series of major climactic changes then ensued, including the last Ice Age. Hunter-gathering helped humans to survive through that period and was still in evidence 11,000 years ago, as the Ice Age ended. Within a few thousand years, however, it had largely disappeared, as the new wave of immigrants settled and domesticated plants and animals.

The study suggests that these farmers settled first in the Carpathian Basin. "It seems that farmers immigrated into Central Europe about 7,500 years ago, initially without mixing with local hunter-gatherers," Dr Barbara Bramanti, from Mainz University, said. "This is surprising, because there were cultural contacts between the locals and the immigrants, but, it appears, no genetic exchange."

Farming itself is believed to have begun in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East, between 12,000 and 7,000 years ago. Early communities there began to produce the so-called "founder crops", such as wheat and barley. More recently, it has become clear that early Chinese communities domesticated their own grains, such as rice and millet, independently of western influence and a growing body of research suggests that these methods may also have spread to the West.

"We are still searching for the remaining components of modern European ancestry," Professor Joachim Burger, from Mainz University, said. "Hunter-gatherer and early farmers alone are not enough. But new ancient DNA data from later periods in European prehistory may shed light on this in the future."

Provided by University of Cambridge

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Is it not always the same with migration or colonization, that initially the two populations do not mix well, from the Vikings to the early US settlers
Some more on this general topic.

Scandinavians Are Descended From Stone Age Immigrants, Ancient DNA Reveals

New research suggests that modern Scandinavians are not descended from the people who came to Scandinavia at the conclusion of the last ice age but, apparently, from a population that arrived later, concurrently with the introduction of agriculture. (Credit: iStockphoto/Jean Assell)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 25, 2009) — Today's Scandinavians are not descended from the people who came to Scandinavia at the conclusion of the last ice age but, apparently, from a population that arrived later, concurrently with the introduction of agriculture. This is one conclusion of a new study straddling the borderline between genetics and archaeology, which involved Swedish researchers and which has now been published in the journal Current Biology.

"The hunter-gatherers who inhabited Scandinavia more than 4,000 years ago had a different gene pool than ours," explains Anders Götherström of the Department of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University, who headed the project together with Eske Willerslev of the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen.

The study, a collaboration among research groups in Sweden, Denmark and the UK, involved using DNA from Stone Age remains to investigate whether the practices of cultivating crops and keeping livestock were spread by immigrants or represented innovations on the part of hunter-gatherers.

"Obtaining reliable results from DNA from such ancient human remains involves very complicated work," says Helena Malmström of the Department of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University.

She carried out the initial DNA sequencings of Stone Age material three years ago. Significant time was then required for researchers to confirm that the material really was thousands of years old.

"This is a classic issue within archaeology," says Petra Molnar at the Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory at Stockholm University. "Our findings show that today's Scandinavians are not the direct descendants of the hunter-gatherers who lived in the region during the Stone Age. This entails the conclusion that some form of migration to Scandinavia took place, probably at the onset of the agricultural Stone Age. The extent of this migration is as of yet impossible to determine."


Journal reference:

Helena Malmström, M.Thomas P. Gilbert, Mark G. Thomas, Mikael Brandström, Jan Storå, Petra Molnar, Pernille K. Andersen, Christian Bendixen, Gunilla Holmlund, Anders Götherström, and Eske Willerslev. Ancient DNA Reveals Lack of Continuity between Neolithic Hunter-Gatherers and Contemporary Scandinavians. Current Biology, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.09.017
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DNA reveals origins of first European farmers
http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-dna ... rmers.html
November 9th, 2010 in Biology / Evolution

An artist's impression of a Neolithic farmer. Image by Karol Schauer, LDA Sachsen-Anhalt.

A team of international researchers led by ancient DNA experts from the University of Adelaide has resolved the longstanding issue of the origins of the people who introduced farming to Europe some 8000 years ago.

A detailed genetic study of one of the first farming communities in Europe, from central Germany, reveals marked similarities with populations living in the Ancient Near East (modern-day Turkey, Iraq and other countries) rather than those from Europe.

Project leader Professor Alan Cooper, Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide, says: "This overturns current thinking, which accepts that the first European farming populations were constructed largely from existing populations of hunter-gatherers, who had either rapidly learned to farm or interbred with the invaders."

The results of the study have been published today in the online peer-reviewed science journal PLoS Biology.

"We have finally resolved the question of who the first farmers in Europe were – invaders with revolutionary new ideas, rather than populations of Stone Age hunter-gatherers who already existed in the area," says lead author Dr Wolfgang Haak, Senior Research Associate with ACAD at the University of Adelaide.

"We've been able to apply new, high-precision ancient DNA methods to create a detailed genetic picture of this ancient farming population, and reveal that it was radically different to the nomadic populations already present in Europe.

"We have also been able to use genetic signatures to identify a potential route from the Near East and Anatolia, where farming evolved around 11,000 years ago, via south-eastern Europe and the Carpathian Basin (today's Hungary) into Central Europe," Dr Haak says.

The project involved researchers from the University of Mainz and State Heritage Museum in Halle, Germany, the Russian Academy of Sciences and members of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, of which Professor Cooper is a Principal Investigator and Dr Haak is a Senior Research Associate.

The ancient DNA used in this study comes from a complete graveyard of Early Neolithic farmers unearthed at the town of Derenburg in Saxony-Anhalt, central Germany.

"This work was only possible due to the close collaboration of archaeologists excavating the skeletons, to ensure that no modern human DNA contaminated the remains, and nicely illustrates the potential when archaeology and genetics are combined," says Professor Kurt Werner Alt from the collaborating Institute of Anthropology in Mainz, Germany.

Provided by University of Adelaide
http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-dna ... rmers.html
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Farmers Slowed Down by Hunter-Gatherers: Our Ancestors' Fight for Space
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 081642.htm

ScienceDaily (Dec. 3, 2010) — Agricultural -- or Neolithic -- economics replaced the Mesolithic social model of hunter-gathering in the Near East about 10,000 years ago. One of the most important socioeconomic changes in human history, this socioeconomic shift, known as the Neolithic transition, spread gradually across Europe until it slowed down when more northern latitudes were reached.

Research published Dec. 3, 2010, in New Journal of Physics (co-owned by the Institute of Physics and the German Physical Society), details a physical model, which can potentially explain how the spreading of Neolithic farmers was slowed down by the population density of hunter-gatherers.

The researchers from Girona, in Catalonia, Spain, use a reaction-diffusion model, which explains the relation between population growth and available space, taking into account the directional space dependency of the established Mesolithic population density.

The findings confirm archeological data, which shows that the slowdown in the spreading of farming communities was not, as often assumed, the result of crops needing to adapt to chillier climates, but indeed a consequence of the struggle for space with prevalent hunter-gatherer communities.

In the future, the researchers' model could be used for further physical modeling of socioeconomic transitions in the history of humanity. As the researchers write, "The model presented in this work could be applied to many examples of invasion fronts in which the indigenous population and the invasive one compete for space in a single biological niche, both in natural habitats and in microbiological assays."

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Institute of Physics, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

1. neus Isern, Joaquim Fort. Anisotropic dispersion, space competition and the slowdown of the Neolithic transition. New Journal of Physics, 2010; DOI: 10.1088/1367-2630/12/12/123002
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 081642.htm
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DNA study deals blow to theory of European origins
By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website

Did Palaeolithic hunters leave a genetic legacy in today's European males?
Continue reading the main story
Related Stories

Farmers spawned most European men
Migrants spread farming to Europe
Ancient farmers were goat-herders
A new study deals a blow to the idea that most European men are descended from farmers who migrated from the Near East 5,000-10,000 years ago.

The findings challenge previous research showing that the genetic signature of the farmers displaced that of Europe's indigenous hunters.

The latest research leans towards the idea that most of Europe's males trace a line of descent to stone-age hunters.

But the authors say more work is needed to answer this question.

The study, by an international team, is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

I would say that we are putting the ball back in the middle of the field”

Dr Cristian Capelli
University of Oxford
Archaeological finds show that modern humans first settled in Europe from about 40,000 years ago - during a time known as the Palaeolithic.

These people survived an Ice Age some 20,000 years ago by retreating to relatively warm refuges in the south of the continent, before expanding into northern Europe again when the ice melted.

But just a few thousand years after Europe had been resettled by these hunter-gatherers, the continent underwent momentous cultural change. Farmers spread westwards from the area that is now Turkey, bringing with them a new economy and way of life.

The extent to which modern Europeans are descended from these early farmers versus the indigenous hunter-gatherers who settled the continent thousands of years previously is a matter of heated debate.

The results vary depending on the genetic markers studied and are subject to differing interpretations.

Family tree
The latest study focused on the Y chromosome - a package of DNA which is passed down more or less unchanged from father to son.

The Y chromosomes carried by people today can be classified into different types, or lineages, which - to some extent - reflect their geographical origins.

More than 100 million European men carry a type called R-M269, so identifying when this genetic group spread out is vital to understanding the peopling of Europe.

R-M269 is most common in western Europe, reaching frequencies of 90% or more in Spain, Ireland and Wales.

The Neolithic was a time of momentous cultural change in Europe
But while this type reaches its highest distribution on the Atlantic fringe, Patricia Balaresque and colleagues at the University of Leicester published a paper in 2010 showing that the genetic diversity of R-M269 increases as one moves east - reaching a peak in Anatolia (modern Turkey).

Genetic diversity is used as a measure of age; lineages that have been around for a long time accumulate more diversity. So this principle can be used to estimate the age of a population.

When the Leicester team estimated how old R-M269 was in different populations across Europe, they found the age ranges were more compatible with an expansion in Neolithic times (between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago).

The team's conclusions received support from papers published in August 2010 and in June this year. But one study which appeared last year backed the idea of a more ancient, Palaeolithic origin for R-M269.

Age estimates
Now, a team including Cristian Capelli and George Busby at Oxford University have explored the question.

Their results, based on a sample of more than 4,500 men from Europe and western Asia, showed no geographical trends in the diversity of R-M269. Such trends would be expected if the lineage had expanded from Anatolia with Neolithic farmers.

Furthermore, they suggest that some of the markers on the Y chromosome are less reliable than others for estimating the ages of genetic lineages. On these grounds, they argue that current analytical tools are unsuitable for dating the expansion of R-M269.

Studies of DNA from ancient remains could shed more light on European origins
Indeed, Dr Capelli and his team say the problem extends to other studies of Y-chromosome lineages: dates based on the analysis of conventional DNA markers may have been "systematically underestimated", they write in Proceedings B.

But Dr Capelli stressed that his study could not answer the question of when the ubiquitous R-M269 expanded in Europe, although his lab is carrying out more work on the subject.

"At the moment it's not possible to claim anything about the age of this lineage," he told BBC News, "I would say that we are putting the ball back in the middle of the field."

The increasing frequency of R-M269 towards western Europe had long been seen by some researchers as an indication that Palaeolithic European genes survived in this region - alongside other clues.

A more recent origin for R-M269 than the Neolithic is still possible. But researchers point out that after the advent of agriculture, populations in Europe exploded, meaning that it would have been more difficult for incoming migrants to displace local people.

[email protected].
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The ups and downs of early farming settlements.

Europe's First Farmers Came, Then Went
http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2 ... tml?ref=hp
by Ann Gibbons on 16 November 2012, 5:26 PM | 2 Comments

The first farmers who swept into Europe 6000 to 7000 years ago may have grown too big for their britches—or animal skins—too fast. A new study of archaeological sites across Western Europe highlights a strikingly consistent pattern in Neolithic farmers' communities: Their populations grew too big, too quickly, and crashed right after they peaked.

"We can see a dramatic history of booms and busts," archaeologist Stephen Shennan of University College London (UCL) reported yesterday in a talk at the 111th meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Francisco, California.

Researchers have long assumed that as the first farmers settled down in Europe, life was more stable for them than for the nomadic foragers and fishers they had displaced. Cultivated plants and animals were a secure source of food, the reasoning went, allowing the farmers to bear more babies and put down deep roots. An overall picture emerged in which farming populations grew gradually until modern times. "It has been generally assumed that population slowly increased, in line with long-term continental and global trends," Shennan says.

No studies, however, had looked closely at what happened to population growth locally in different regions of Europe after the first farmers arrived. Working with evolutionary geneticist Mark Thomas at UCL, Shennan developed a statistical method to trace the rise and fall of population numbers by using calibrated radiocarbon dates at archaeological sites in Europe. They reasoned that the more dates for Neolithic settlements in a region, the higher the population (after correcting for different numbers of dates from different archaeological sites). Once they used clusters of dates to track patterns of population growth and decline at archaeological sites in Europe, they calibrated their method by studying patterns in the types and dates of pollen found at the sites, which reflect when farmers cleared land of trees to grow crops. The two records of population growth matched, Shennan says.

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When they examined their data, they found that populations did indeed increase rapidly in many areas with the onset of farming, as expected. But these levels were not sustained. The new subsistence system, despite its potential for supporting increased populations, did not bring stability. "The characteristic regional pattern indicated by changing population levels is one of instability, of boom and bust," Shennan says.

Why did farmers' numbers rise and fall? Shennan tested whether changes in climate hit the farmers hard by comparing the patterns of population growth and decline with regional fluctuations in climate, as reflected in Greenland ice core samples. But there was no significant match. "So why do we have these boom-bust oscillations? We don't know," Shennan says.

The possibilities include intense competition for food and other resources due to overpopulation; the rise of diseases acquired by living closely with livestock, other humans, and their waste; and increased violence among Neolithic communities.

Shennan's team also suggests that this pattern of boom and bust had a negative impact on social, economic, and cultural life in these communities. One recent study of the skeletons of early farmers in Britain also found a surge in violence right after populations exploded. "Whatever the case, what we've shown is that with this early farming system, these high population levels could not be maintained," Shennan says.

Other researchers at the talk said this was the first time that researchers had shown a pattern of boom and bust in Neolithic populations that was not tied to climate change. "It shows on a grand scale that the replacement of foraging by farming has a huge impact on who we are and what the world was like," says human behavioral ecologist Eric Smith of the University of Washington, Seattle. "If farming from the get-go is associated with unstable populations, that's interesting to know."
http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2 ... tml?ref=hp
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More on early farmers, how well they worked wood before they had metal tools. Farmers were farmers in those days.

Human history preserved in tree rings of prehistoric wooden wells
December 19th, 2012 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

This image shows Neolithic wooden water wells. Credit: Citation: Tegel W, Elburg R, Hakelberg D, Stauble H, Buntgen U (2012) Early Neolithic Water Wells Reveal the World?s Oldest Wood Architecture. PLOS ONE 7(12): e51374. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051374

Prehistoric farming communities in Europe constructed water wells out of oak timbers, revealing that these first farmers were skilled carpenters long before metal was discovered or used for tools. The research published December 19 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Willy Tegel and colleagues from the University of Freiburg, Germany, contradicts the common belief that metal tools were required to make complex wooden structures.

The wooden water wells discovered in eastern Germany are over 7000 years old, and suggest that these early farmers had unexpectedly refined carpentry skills. "This early Neolithic craftsmanship now suggests that the first farmers were also the first carpenters", the study reports.

These first Central European farmers migrated from the Great Hungarian Plain approximately 7,500 years ago, and left an archeological trail of settlements, ceramics and stone tools across the fertile regions of the continent, a record named Linear Pottery Culture (LBK). However, much of the lifestyle of these early settlers is still a mystery, including the climate they lived in and technology or strategies they used to cope with their surroundings. According to the study, the oak timbers analyzed in this study are also a new archive of environmental data preserved in the tree rings, which could tell an accurate, year-by-year story of the times these early settlers lived in.

More information: Tegel W, Elburg R, Hakelberg D, Stauble H, Buntgen U (2012) Early Neolithic Water Wells Reveal the World's Oldest Wood Architecture. PLOS ONE 7(12): e51374.

Provided by Public Library of Science

"Human history preserved in tree rings of prehistoric wooden wells." December 19th, 2012. http://phys.org/news/2012-12-human-hist ... ooden.html
http://phys.org/news/2012-12-human-hist ... ooden.html
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Looks as if they left a bigger footprint than previously realised.

Humans' indelible stamp on Earth clear 5000 years ago
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2 ... ?full=true

Updated 16:19 30 April 2013 by Fred Pearce

When did humans stamp our footprint on the planet? The idea that we have entered a geological epoch defined by our very presence – the Anthropocene – is gaining traction, but exactly when did this epoch begin? After the first atom bomb went off? At the start of the industrial revolution in the mid-18th century? Or was it a lot earlier? A new study argues that the Anthropocene began with the rise of farming or even in Neolithic times, when we took to widespread burning of the bush to hunt animals.

In a reappraisal of humanity's footprint, Erle Ellis, a geographer at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, and colleagues calculate that across much of the world – excluding the poles – at least a fifth of the land had been transformed by humans as early as 5000 years ago. By contrast, most previous studies conclude that this level of transformation in land use was only reached around 100 years ago. Ellis's group also argues that this degree of land use would have released enough carbon dioxide to have warmed the local climate of the time.

Even though there were only a few tens of millions of us back then, nature was on the back foot because individuals needed far more land to sustain themselves than we do today, says Ellis. Thanks to more intensive farming methods, per-capita land use in western Europe now is only around a sixth what it was 2500 years ago, while in south-east Asia it is less than a tenth.

"We often assume that early agriculturalists couldn't alter the landscape much because they lacked the technology," says co-author Steve Vavrus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. "But their impact was great because they didn't need to be as efficient as modern farmers."

Filling all usable land

Ellis and Vavrus's study compares conventional models of past land use, which have usually assumed that the amount of land each human needs has remained largely unchanged, with their own alternative, in which early humans "expanded to fill all usable land, and then intensified land use as population densities increased". They present archaeological evidence that the real world fits their model.

Sediments in lake beds, for instance, show massive peaks in tiny particles of charcoal, starting 60,000 years ago. This coincided with hunters setting fires to catch animals by driving them in a specific direction, and using fire to stimulate the regrowth of grasslands on which their prey fed. Another example is the soils beneath modern tropical forests in both the Americas and Africa that were enriched with manure and charcoal put there by farmers at least 2500 years ago.

This prehistoric tinkering with the planet may even have altered the climate. Over thousands of years, the great clearances of forests and transformations of grasslands with fire and plough probably released enough carbon from trees and soils to raise atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by 20 or 30 parts per million, calculates co-author Jed Kaplan of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. That's equivalent to a 10 per cent rise compared to what the CO2 level would otherwise have been – small in terms of its warming influence compared to the effect of today's human emissions of around 120 parts per million, but possibly enough to have triggered local changes.

A typical human even 8000 years ago had a lifetime carbon footprint of about 30 tonnes of CO2. That was around one tonne a year, compared to per-capita annual emissions of 2 to 3 tonnes today.

This new analysis builds on previous work by climate scientist William Ruddiman. A decade ago, when at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, he put forward the idea that greenhouse emissions from farming 8000 years ago may have raised atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations.

Steve Jackson of the Southwest Climate Science Center of the US Geological Survey based in Tucson, Arizona, who was not involved in either study, says the new work underlines an "increasing recognition that human societies have shaped ecosystems at a much broader scale than presumed".

Not pristine but resilient

This picture of early human domination of much of the planet calls into question some common environmental assumptions, says co-author Dorian Fuller of University College London. It suggests, for example, that there is little truly pristine nature anywhere. Most apparently virgin rainforests are far from virgin; many are recovering from past clearance. This may disappoint some nature lovers, but "it shows nature is resilient", says Kaplan. Nature adapts to our activities better than we often think.

However, the new study does not give us grounds for rejecting environmental concerns, he says. Our current problems – especially what may be runaway climate change caused by burning fossil fuels – are real. At least the study's findings do offer important lessons for fixing those problems.

One is not to get hung up about whether ecosystems are natural. Most likely they are not, but all deserve protection. Another is to recognise that, throughout the Anthropocene, technology has repeatedly been our trump card. Through its use, intensified agriculture has allowed world populations to soar. And while some civilisations, such as the Maya and early Mesopotamians, may have wiped themselves out through environmental mismanagement, others were smarter, the new analysis suggests.

Between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago, the tribes of Eurasia underwent a change in strategy now known as the "broad spectrum revolution". Faced with a decline in big game, probably through overhunting, people started to diversify their food sources by hunting a wider range of smaller animals, sometimes managing wild herds of deer and gazelle to ensure they did not die out. They also learned how to grind, boil, ferment and roast food, which allowed them to eat a much greater variety of food, and to develop early techniques of farming, such as seed propagation.

It worked well and was, says Fuller, an early example of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle to cope with resource shortages. That is a lesson we could usefully adopt in the modern era.

And as for the onset of the Anthropocene? Ellis is reluctant to put a definite date on it but Fuller is happy to pinpoint it to around 3000 BC. "This is the point at which we are beginning to see rises in both carbon dioxide and methane; domesticated fauna start to become widespread on all the Old World continents, and we have the emergence of urbanism and larger scale metallurgy around this time or soon after," he says.

Journal reference: PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1217241110
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2 ... ?full=true
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Neolithic farmers used manure on crops
By Melissa Hogenboom
Science reporter, BBC News

Artwork of Neolithic village

Neolithic farmers are thought to have invested in plots of land

Europe's first farmers used livestock manure on their crops 8,000 years ago, new research has found.

Neolithic samples from charred crop remains contained the type of nitrogen also abundant in manure.

This suggests farmers took a longer-term approach to cultivating their land, rather than leading a nomadic lifestyle.

The study, published in PNAS, could also shed new light on what early farmers ate.

The introduction of farming was one of the most important cultural shifts in history. This age of agriculture defines the Neolithic period, also known as the New Stone Age.

Until now, it was believed that using manure to fertilise crops was not developed until the Iron Age, the period before the Romans invaded Britain in AD43.

Charred crop remains
Charred remains were preserved in Neolithic houses destroyed by fire
Neolithic farmers were previously believed to maintain a nomadic lifestyle, perhaps a relic from hunter-gatherer days.

But now researchers suggest they invested in plots of land and cultivated it for future generations.

'Fixed investments'
Manuring crops involves a long-term investment in arable land. As dung breaks down slowly, crops benefit from its nutrients over many years.

A team led by Amy Bogaard from the University of Oxford found the stable isotope nitrogen-15 (N15), which is abundant in manure, in the charred cereal grains and pulses from 13 Neolithic sites across Europe.

"These results point to a different kind of farming where they were making fixed investments in land that they intended to hang onto and pass onto future generations," Dr Bogaard told BBC News.

This shift also had a radical social effect, as different families would have claimed plots of land and sought to hold onto those plots, she added.

"The idea that farmland could be cared for by the same family for generations seems quite an advanced notion, but rich fertile land would have been viewed as extremely valuable for the growing of crops.

"We believe that as land was viewed as a commodity to be inherited, social differences in early European farming communities started to emerge between the haves and the have-nots."

Naked wheat grain from Koufovouno, southern Greece
Scientists analysed charred crop remains such as wheat
The study may also alter the view of what Stone Age farmers ate. As manure is rich in N15, the crops fertilised with manure, and those who ate the crops, also had high N15 enrichment, explained Dr Bogaard.

Previously it was thought human fossil remains from this time had high values of N15 due to a diet rich in meat. The researchers now suggest that previous studies may have wrongly inferred that Neolithic farmers had a meat-rich diet.

Juan Pedro Ferrio from the University de Lleida, Spain, said: "There are other possible environmental factors, such as high temperature and rain, which could increase N15."

But he added that manuring - whether accidentally or on purpose - was a likely explanation, and that it was clear Neolithic farmers were eating grain more enriched with N15 compared to the values of leaves of the same plant.
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European hunter-gatherers owned pigs as early as 4600BC
August 27th, 2013 in Other Sciences / Archaeology & Fossils

European hunter-gatherers acquired domesticated pigs from nearby farmers as early as 4600BC, according to new evidence. The domesticated pigs had different colored and spotted coats. Credit: Ben Krause-Kyora, Christian-Albrechts University

European hunter-gatherers acquired domesticated pigs from nearby farmers as early as 4600BC, according to new evidence. The domesticated pigs had different colored and spotted coats. Credit: Ben Krause-Kyora, Christian-Albrechts University

European hunter-gatherers acquired domesticated pigs from nearby farmers as early as 4600BC, according to new evidence.

The international team of scientists, including researchers at Durham and Aberdeen universities, showed there was interaction between the hunter-gatherer and farming communities and a 'sharing' of animals and knowledge. The interaction between the two groups eventually led to the hunter-gatherers incorporating farming and breeding of livestock into their culture, say the scientists.

The research, published in Nature Communications today (27 August), gives new insights into the movements of pre-historic humans and the transition of technologies and knowledge.

The spread of plants and animals throughout Europe between 6000 and 4000BC involved a complex interplay between indigenous Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and incoming Neolithic farmers but the scale of the interaction and the extent to which hunter-gatherers took ideas from their neighbours remains hotly debated.

The researchers say previous evidence about the ownership of domestic animals by hunter-gatherers has so far been circumstantial.

Lead author, Dr Ben Krause-Kyora, from Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, said: "Mesolithic hunter-gatherers definitely had dogs, but they did not practise agriculture and did not have pigs, sheep, goats, or cows, all of which were introduced to Europe with incoming farmers about 6000BC. Having people who practised a very different survival strategy nearby must have been odd, and we know now that the hunter-gathers possessed some of the farmers' domesticated pigs."

It is not yet known whether the hunter-gatherers received the pigs via trade or exchange, or by hunting and capturing escaped animals. However, the domestic pigs had different coloured and spotted coats that would have seemed strange and exotic to the hunter-gatherers and may have attracted them to the pigs.

Co-author, Dr Greger Larson, from the Department of Archaeology at Durham University, added: "Humans love novelty, and though hunter-gatherers exploited wild boar, it would have been hard not to be fascinated by the strange-looking spotted pigs owned by farmers living nearby. It should come as no surprise that the hunter-gatherers acquired some eventually, but this study shows that they did very soon after the domestic pigs arrived in northern Europe."

The team analysed the ancient DNA from the bones and teeth of 63 pigs from Northern Germany which showed that the hunter-gatherers acquired domestic pigs of varying size and coat colour that had both Near Eastern and European ancestry.

More information: Use of domesticated pigs by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in Northwest Europe, by Krause-Kyora et al, published in Nature Communications, 27 August 2013. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3348
Provided by Durham University

"European hunter-gatherers owned pigs as early as 4600BC." August 27th, 2013. http://phys.org/news/2013-08-european-h ... 600bc.html
http://phys.org/news/2013-08-european-h ... 600bc.html
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Hard Times Followed Booms for Europe's Ancient Farmers
Radiocarbon dating points to centuries-long population cycles.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... chaeology/

A Neolithic farmhouse in Greece.

Remains of two ovens, clay pots and stone tools are seen among the ruins of a Neolithic home unearthead by archaeologists in northern Greece, near the city of Pella.

Photograph from Culture Ministry of Greece/Reuters
Dan Vergano
National Geographic
Published October 1, 2013

Feast or famine was the rule for Europe's first farmers, archaeologists report. A population bust followed boom times in early agriculture from France to Ireland, a catalog of radiocarbon dates reveals.

Farming first moved into Europe from Greece around 8,500 years ago, spreading to Ireland and northern Europe over the next several thousand years. The switch from hunting and gathering to farming was a giant step forward for humanity, but the results from early Europe point to tough times for early farmers. (Related: "The Development of Agriculture.")

"Likely it played out in stark terms of soil degradation, probably ending in disease and warfare," says anthropologist Sean Downey of the University of Maryland in College Park, a co-author of the new Nature Communications journal study. "It's fairly depressing and Malthusian, what happened."

Hewing forests, sowing seeds, and raising crops for the first time, Europe's first farmers initially spread across western Europe, stretching from southern France to Denmark to Ireland, as analyzed in the study. The researchers compared ancient land use and climate indicators against a comprehensive tally of 13,658 radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites across Europe. The data tells a story of Stone Age (or Neolithic) farming economies suffering a crash around 4000 B.C.

Some regions suffered population losses of 30 percent to 60 percent, as revealed by land use and grave findings, comparable to the effects of the Black Death across Europe during the Middle Ages. "The collapse played out over three to six centuries. It was more of a long-lasting depression," Downey says.

Farmers were never all that numerous in Neolithic Europe even in good times; population densities in modern Europe are about 33 times higher than they were during that era.

A later, smaller boom happened around 2800 B.C. Neither the busts nor the booms appear tied to climate conditions, which surprised the researchers. A March study in the journal Science, for example, had pointed to drought playing a large role in the collapse of the classic Maya civilization around 800 A.D. (See "Climate Change Killed Off Maya Civilization.")

"I believe their results will be the origin of numerous new studies," says population modeling expert Neus Isern of Spain's Universitat de Girona."Why did the Neolithic economy crash if there was no natural disaster behind it? Was the Neolithic economy not as sustainable as we assume?"

Downey speculates that early farmers may have hastened soil degradation through deforestation and overuse of soils, while also raising the possibility of disease triggering population declines. Another possibility is that migration may have played a role in booms and busts, says archaeologist Ron Pinhasi of University College Dublin.

"It may be the case that the second boom is the outcome of a secondary product revolution—mainly dairying, which may have started earlier but gained momentum later," Pinhasi says. Europe is a hot spot for genes that enable up to 90 percent of the adult population to drink milk, an advantage that likely evolved only about 7,500 years ago, according to a 2009 study.

"I can't help but think there is a real important message here for contemporary thinking today, where there is a lot of blind faith that new technology will always carry the day," Downey says. "That is not how it went in the Neolithic."
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... chaeology/
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So, it looks like they lived together for a while.

Hunter-Gatherers and Immigrant Farmers Lived Together for 2,000 Years in Central Europe
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 142704.htm

Palaeogenetic research in the ultra-clean laboratory at Mainz University. (Credit: photo/©: Thomas Hartmann, JGU)

Oct. 10, 2013 — Indigenous hunter-gatherers and immigrant farmers lived side-by-side for more than 2,000 years in Central Europe, before the hunter-gatherer communities died out or adopted the agricultural lifestyle. The results come from a study undertaken by the Institute of Anthropology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) that has just been published in the journal Science.

A team led by Mainz anthropologist Professor Joachim Burger studied bones from the 'Blätterhöhle' cave near Hagen in Germany, where both hunter-gatherers and farmers were buried. "It is commonly assumed that the Central European hunter-gatherers disappeared soon after the arrival of farmers," said Dr. Ruth Bollongino, lead author of the study. "But our study shows that the descendants of Mesolithic Europeans maintained their hunter-gatherer way of life and lived in parallel with the immigrant farmers, for at least 2,000 years. The hunter-gathering lifestyle thus only died out in Central Europe around 5,000 years ago, much later than previously thought."

Until around 7,500 years ago all central Europeans were hunter-gatherers. They were the descendants of the first anatomically modern humans to arrive in Europe, around 45,000 years ago, who survived the last Ice Age and the warming that started around 10,000 years ago. But previous genetic studies by Professor Burger's group indicated that agriculture and a sedentary lifestyle were brought to Central Europe around 7,500 years ago by immigrant farmers. From that time on, little trace of hunter-gathering can be seen in the archaeological record, and it was widely assumed that the hunter-gatherers died out or were absorbed into the farming populations.

The relationship between these immigrant agriculturalists and local hunter-gatherers has been poorly researched to date. The Mainz anthropologists have now determined that the foragers stayed in close proximity to farmers, had contact with them for thousands of years, and buried their dead in the same cave. This contact was not without consequences, because hunter-gatherer women sometimes married into the farming communities, while no genetic lines of farmer women have been found in hunter-gatherers. "This pattern of marriage is known from many studies of human populations in the modern world. Farmer women regarded marrying into hunter-gatherer groups as social anathema, maybe because of the higher birthrate among the farmers," explains Burger.

For the study published in Science, the team examined the DNA from the bones from the 'Blätterhöhle' cave in Westphalia, which is being excavated by the Berlin archaeologist Jörg Orschiedt. It is one of the rare pieces of evidence of the continuing presence of foragers over a period of about 5,000 years.

For a long time the Mainz researchers were unable to make sense of the findings. "It was only through the analysis of isotopes in the human remains, performed by our Canadian colleagues, that the pieces of the puzzle began to fit," states Bollongino. "This showed that the hunter-gatherers sustained themselves in Central and Northern Europe on a very specialized diet that included fish, among other things, until 5,000 years ago.

The team also pursued the question of what impact both groups had on the gene pool of modern Europeans. Dr. Adam Powell, population geneticist at the JGU Institute of Anthropology, explains: "Neither hunter-gatherers nor farmers can be regarded as the sole ancestors of modern-day Central Europeans. European ancestry will reflect a mixture of both populations, and the ongoing question is how and to what extent this admixture happened."

It seems that the hunter-gatherers' lifestyle only died out in Central Europe 5,000 years ago. Agriculture and animal husbandry became the way of life from then on. However, some of the prehistoric farmers had foragers as ancestors, and the, hunter-gatherer genes are found in Central Europeans today.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universität Mainz, via AlphaGalileo.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Ruth Bollongino, Olaf Nehlich, Michael P. Richards, Jörg Orschiedt, Mark G. Thomas, Christian Sell, Zuzana Fajkošová, Adam Powell, and Joachim Burger. 2000 Years of Parallel Societies in Stone Age Central Europe. Science, 10 October 2013 DOI: 10.1126/science.1245049
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 142704.htm
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And they certainly interbred.

The modern European gene pool was formed when three ancient populations mixed within the last 7,000 years, Nature journal reports. Blue-eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East. But another, mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent.

The findings are based on analysis of genomes from nine ancient Europeans.

Agriculture originated in the Near East - in modern Syria, Iraq and Israel - before expanding into Europe around 7,500 years ago. Multiple lines of evidence suggested this new way of life was spread not just via the exchange of ideas, but by a wave of migrants, who interbred with the indigenous European hunter-gatherers they encountered on the way.

But assumptions about European origins were based largely on the genetic patterns of living people. The science of analysing genomic DNA from ancient bones has put some of the prevailing theories to the test, throwing up a few surprises.

Genomic DNA contains the biochemical instructions for building a human, and resides within the nuclei of our cells.

In the new paper, Prof David Reich from the Harvard Medical School and colleagues studied the genomes of seven hunter-gatherers from Scandinavia, one hunter whose remains were found in a cave in Luxembourg and an early farmer from Stuttgart, Germany. ...

Time to get our teeth into this story.

Hunter-gatherers had almost no malocclusion and dental crowding, and the condition first became common among the world's earliest farmers some 12,000 years ago in Southwest Asia, according to findings published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

By analysing the lower jaws and teeth crown dimensions of 292 archaeological skeletons from the Levant, Anatolia and Europe, from between 28,000-6,000 years ago, an international team of scientists have discovered a clear separation between European hunter-gatherers, Near Eastern/Anatolian semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and transitional farmers, and European farmers, based on the form and structure of their jawbones.

"Our analysis shows that the lower jaws of the world's earliest farmers in the Levant, are not simply smaller versions of those of the predecessor hunter-gatherers, but that the lower jaw underwent a complex series of shape changes commensurate with the transition to agriculture," says Professor Ron Pinhasi from the School of Archaeology and Earth Institute, University College Dublin, the lead author on the study.

"Our findings show that the hunter gatherer populations have an almost "perfect harmony" between their lower jaws and teeth," he explains. "But this harmony begins to fade when you examine the lower jaws and teeth of the earliest farmers". ...

This may be one of the inevitable side-effects of transitioning to an omnivorous diet, particularly one where foodstuffs are cooked or otherwise softened through soaking and mixing.

One of the insufficiently-acknowledged aspects of humanoid evolutionary development along a sentient route (in the sense of becoming an abstract thinker and advanced problem-solver) has been the massive contribution made as a result of eating cooked food.

As well as killing microbes (thus saving life) and making food more easily (and quickly) digestable, the process allowed people to become satiated and hence fat contemplative cogitators, as opposed to being lean hungry hunters.

And so the decent of dentition crunched in step with the march of the ascent to sapience.
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Please e get it right, humans modern and ancient have been cooking for a looong time. Neanderthals cooked, ffs.
I understood Neanderthals had been collectively-reassessed as being a highly sentient and creative people, I'm talking about a much earlier transition from scavenging and eating raw food, over to consuming deliberately-cooked and prepaed meats plus broths/soups. There is a school of thought that does believe human art and abstraction began to blossom also at around this time, cooks creating creativity.

Do you have doubts about the causal relationship between these facets, in the same way that you're doubting that the eating of cooked food has had an effect upon human teeth? Surely you'd agree that the selection for progressively-smaller canine teeth in our branch of the primates is because we now don't normally have to chase and kill our meat by hand? The closest most people get to that nowadays is the drive-thru at McDonald's...perhaps we'll develop Big Mac cheek-pouches in a few thousand years. Bet they still won't have my Wrap of the Day meal ready by that time....
The article implies that cooking began around 12,000 ya. It even acknowledges the point you make
The link between chewing, diet, and related dental wear patterns is well known in the scientific literature. Today, malocclusion and dental crowding affects around one in five people in modern-world populations. The condition has been described as the "malady of civilization".
,however they make the assertion that cooking started in the neolithic.
The diet of the hunter-gatherer was based on "hard" foods like wild uncooked* vegetables and meat, while the staple diet of the sedentary farmer is based on "soft" cooked or processed foods like cereals and legumes. With soft cooked foods there is less of a requirement for chewing...
They should have made the connection more strongly to processing of food, particularly grains. Quern stones and handstones only began to be used in the neolithic by the settled¹ farmers, rather than nomadic or semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers.

* my emphasis
¹ settled, rather than sedentary, which makes them seem like couch potatoes.
Hunter-gatherers in ancient Britain may have imported cereals from Europe long before they turned to farming.

Ancient DNA recovered from soil submerged beneath the English Channel suggests that wheat appeared in Britain some 2,000 years before Neolithic farmers began cultivating cereal grains there. But not all archaeologists are convinced by the new findings, which are reported inScience1.

The Mesolithic-to-Neolithic transition, when modern humans began to settle and grow food, marks a key step in the evolution of civilization and technology. In Europe, agriculture slowly spread from ancient Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), where domesticated plants including wheat were first farmed about 10,000 years ago, through the Mediterranean and central Europe. Archaeologists believe that farming did not reach the British Isles until about 6,000 years ago. ...

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An international team led by researchers at Uppsala University reports a surprising discovery from the genomes of eight Iberian Stone-Age farmer remains. The analyses revealed that early Iberian farmers are the closest ancestors to modern-day Basques, in contrast previous hypotheses that linked Basques to earlier pre-farming groups.

The team could also demonstrate that farming was brought to Iberia by the same/similar groups that migrated to northern and central Europe and that the incoming farmers admixed with local, Iberian hunter-gather groups, a process that continued for at least 2 millennia.

The study is published today, ahead of print, in the leading scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Most of the previous studies about the transition from small and mobile hunter-gatherer groups to larger and sedentary farming populations have focused on central and northern Europe, however much less in known about how this major event unfolded in Iberia. This time, the research team investigated eight individuals associated with archaeological remains from farming cultures in the El Portalón cave from the well-known Anthropological site Atapuerca in northern Spain.

"The El Portalon cave is a fantastic site with amazing preservation of artefact material," says Dr. Cristina Valdiosera of Uppsala University and La Trobe University, one of the lead authors

An argument over the authenticity of ancient DNA is leading researchers to question a headline-making study which changed views on the dawn of farming in Western Europe1.

The study, published in Science in February 2015, reported finding of fragments of 8,000-year-old wheat DNA from soil in a prehistoric settlement submerged off the coast of England — thousands of years before the archaeological record suggests Neolithic farmers began cultivating cereal grains in Britain.

The discovery suggested that ancient Britons imported wheat, raising the possibility of trading networks that linked hunter–gatherers to farmers living as far away as the Balkans. “If the claim is right, they’re overturning the whole story of the colonization of Britain in the Middle Holocene. It’s a giant claim,” says Keith Bennett, a palaeoecologist at Queen’s University Belfast, UK.

But an analysis published on 3 November in eLIFE contends that the wheat DNA is too pristine to be 8,000 years old — because it lacks the biochemical-damage patterns that would be expected after so many millennia2. It more than likely represents accidental modern contamination, argues Hernán Burbano, an ancient-DNA researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, who led the new work.

Why we think the very first farmers were small groups with property rights
November 15, 2015

For 95% of the history of modern humans we were exclusively hunter gatherers. Then suddenly about 12,000 years ago, something happened that revolutionised the way humans lived and enabled the complex societies we have today: farming.

But what triggered this revolution? Understanding this is incredibly challenging – because this occurred so far in the past, there are many factors to consider. However, by simulating the past using a complex computational model, we found that the switch from foraging to farming most likely began with very small groups of people that were using the concept of property rights.

Farming: an unlikely choice

It may seem obvious why we switched from foraging to farming: it made it possible to stay in one place, feed larger populations, have greater food security and build increasingly complex societies, political structures, economies and technologies. However, these advantages took time to develop and our early farmer ancestors would not have seen these coming.

Indeed, archaeological research suggests that when farming began it was not a particularly attractive lifestyle. It involved more work, a decrease in the quality of nutrition and health, an increase in disease and infection, and greater challenges in defending resources. For a hunter-gatherer at the cusp of the “agricultural revolution”, a switch to farming wasn’t the obvious choice.

So why then did early farmers choose this lifestyle? We know that farming started around the beginning of the Holocene, the unusually warm and stable climate phase we find ourselves in today. This may have lead to changes in population sizes, mobility and resource quality and predictability – and in turn changes to social organisation. We decided to examine the issue using a new method to analyze a computational model on the origins of our farming past.

Read more at deepstuff.org/why-we-think-the-very-first-farmers-were-small-groups-with-property-rights/#FclOZF4jWaJeitgT.99
Link and website are dead. The full version of this article was originally published at The Conversation:
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Scientists Peg Anthropocene to First Farmers
Study shows 300-million-year natural pattern ended 6,000 years ago because of human activity

Professor of Biology Nick Gotelli asks fundamental questions about the organization of plant and animal communities. He's put his skills to work as the senior author on a new study in Nature. (Photo: Joshua Brown)
A new analysis of the fossil record shows that a deep pattern in nature remained the same for 300 million years. Then, 6,000 years ago, the pattern was disrupted — at about the same time that agriculture spread across North America.

“When early humans started farming and became dominant in the terrestrial landscape, we see this dramatic restructuring of plant and animal communities,” said University of Vermont biologist Nicholas Gotelli, an expert on statistics and the senior author on the new study.

In the hunt for the beginning of the much-debated “Anthropocene” — a supposed new geologic era defined by human influence of the planet — the new research suggests a need to look back farther in time than the arrival of human-caused climate change, atomic weapons, urbanization or the industrial revolution.

“This tells us that humans have been having a massive effect on the environment for a very long time,” said S. Kathleen Lyons, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History who led the new research.

The study was published Dec. 16 in the journal Nature. ...

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Stone-age people were making porridge 32,000 years ago

Going on the palaeo diet? Don’t put down your porridge just yet. Hunter-gatherers ate oats as far back as 32,000 years ago – way before farming took root.

This is the earliest known human consumption of oats, say Marta Mariotti Lippi at the University of Florence in Italy and her colleagues, who made the discovery after analysing starch grains on an ancient stone grinding tool from southern Italy.

The Palaeolithic people ground up the wild oats to form flour, which they may have boiled or baked into a simple flatbread, says Mariotti Lippi.

They also seem to have heated the grains before grinding them, perhaps to dry them out in the colder climate of the time. Mariotti Lippi notes that this would also have made the grain easier to grind and longer-lasting.

This multi-stage process would have been time consuming, but beneficial. The grain is nutritionally valuable, and turning it into flour would have been a good way to transport it, which was important for Palaeolithic nomads, she says.

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This week, an international research team led by paleogeneticists of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz publishes a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America showing that early farmers from across Europe have an almost unbroken trail of ancestry leading back to the Aegean.

For most of the last 45,000 years Europe was inhabited solely by hunter-gatherers. About 8,500 years ago a new form of subsistence - farming - started to spread across the continent from modern-day Turkey, reaching central Europe by 7,500 years ago and Britain by 6,100 years ago. This new subsistence strategy led to profound changes in society, including greater population density, new diseases, and poorer health. Such was the impact of farming on how we live that scientists have debated for more than 100 years how it was spread across Europe. Many believed that farming was spread as an idea to European hunter-gatherers but without a major migration of farmers themselves.

This week, an international research team led by paleogeneticists of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) publishes a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America showing that early farmers from across Europe have an almost unbroken trail of ancestry leading back to the Aegean. The scientists analyzed the DNA of early farmer skeletons from Greece and Turkey. According to the study, 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 colonists brought sedentary life, agriculture, and domestic animals and plants to Europe. During their expansion they will have met hunter-gatherers who lived in Europe since the Ice Age, but the two groups mixed initially only to a very limited extent. ,,,

Where Did the First Farmers Live? Looking for Answers in DNA

Beneath a rocky slope in central Jordan lie the remains of a 10,000-year-old village called Ain Ghazal, whose inhabitants lived in stone houses with timber roof beams, the walls and floors gleaming with white plaster.

Hundreds of people living there worshiped in circular shrines and made
haunting, wide-eyed sculptures
that stood three feet high. They buried their cherished dead under the floors of their houses, decapitating the bodies in order to decorate the skulls.

  • But as fascinating as this culture was, something else about Ain Ghazal intrigues archaeologists more: It was one of the first farming villages to have emerged after the dawn of agriculture.

    Around the settlement, Ain Ghazal farmers raised barley, wheat, chickpeas and lentils. Other villagers would leave for months at a time to herd sheep and goats in the surrounding hills.

    Sites like Ain Ghazal provide a glimpse of one of the most important transitions in human history: the moment that people domesticated plants and animals, settled down, and began to produce the kind of society in which most of us live today.

    But for all that sites like Ain Ghazal have taught archaeologists, they are still grappling with enormous questions. Who exactly were the first farmers? How did agriculture, a cornerstone of civilization itself, spread to other parts of the world? ...
New DNA research shows true migration route of early farming in Europe 8,000 years ago
Spread of agriculture throughout Europe followed migration into the Mediterranean from the Near East -- thousands of years earlier than widely believed

April 6, 2017
University of Huddersfield
New DNA research shows true migration route of early farming in Europe 8,000 years ago, correcting previous theories.

A new article co-authored by experts at the University of Huddersfield bolsters a theory that the spread of agriculture throughout Europe followed migration into the Mediterranean from the Near East more than 13,000 years ago -- thousands of years earlier than widely believed.

This was during the Late Glacial period and initially the migrants were hunter-gatherers. But they later developed a knowledge of agriculture from further newly-arrived populations from the Near East -- where farming began -- and during the Neolithic, approximately 8,000 years ago, they began to colonise other parts of Europe, taking their farming practices with them.

The University of Huddersfield is home to the Archaeogenetics Research Group, which uses DNA analysis to solve questions from archaeology, anthropology and history. It is headed by Professor Martin Richards, and the issue of the genetic ancestry of Europeans has been one of his major research areas for many years.

Now he is a principal contributor to the article that appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It describes how the researchers used almost 1,500 mitochondrial genome lineages to date the arrival of people in different regions of Europe.

It was found that in central Europe and Iberia, these could mainly be traced to the Neolithic. However, in the central and eastern Mediterranean, they predominantly dated to the much earlier Late Glacial period.

The authors write that: "This supports a scenario in which the genetic pool of Mediterranean Europe was partly a result of Late Glacial expansions from a Near Eastern refuge, and that this formed an important source pool for subsequent Neolithic expansions into the rest of Europe." ...