“The genetic markers of this first pan European culture, which was clearly very successful, were then suddenly replaced around 4,500 years ago, and we don't know why”
----- Prof Alan Cooper University of Adelaide -----
April 23, 2013
DNA sequenced from nearly 40 ancient skeletons has shed light on the complex prehistoric events that shaped modern European populations.
A study of remains from Central Europe suggests the foundations of the modern gene pool were laid down between 4,000 and 2,000 BC - in Neolithic times.
These changes were likely brought about by the rapid growth and movement of some populations. The work by an international team is published in Nature Communications.
Decades of study of the DNA patterns of modern Europeans suggests two major events in prehistory significantly affected the continent's genetic landscape: its initial peopling by hunter-gatherers in Palaeolithic times (35,000 years ago) and a wave of migration by Near Eastern farmers some 6,000 years ago. (in the early Neolithic)
Analysis of DNA from ancient remains in Central and Northern Europe appears to show that the genetic legacy of the hunter-gatherers was all but erased by later migrations, including pioneer Neolithic farmers but possibly by later waves of people too.
The latest paper reveals that events some time after the initial migration of farmers into Europe did indeed have a major impact on the modern gene pool. In the study, an international team of researchers focused on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the information in the cell's "batteries". This type of DNA is passed down, almost unchanged, from a mother to her children.
By studying the mutations, or changes, in mtDNA sequences, researchers are able to probe the maternal histories of different human populations. It has enabled them to build a "family tree" of maternal ancestry, and group different mtDNA lineages together based on shared mutations. For the latest paper, the authors chose to focus on one of these groupings known as haplogroup H.
Haplogroup H dominates mtDNA variation in Europe. Today, more than 40% of Europeans belong to this genetic "clan", with frequencies much higher in the west of the continent than in the east.
The DNA of "Beaker folk" resembled that of people from Spain and Portugal
The team selected 37 human remains from the Mitelelbe Saale region of Germany and two from Italy, all of whom belonged to the "H" clan. This area has a very well preserved collection of human skeletons forming a continuous record of habitation across different archaeological cultures since Palaeolithic times.
The remains investigated here span 3,500 years of European prehistory, from the Early Neolithic to the Bronze Age. Sequencing the mitochondrial genomes of these 39 remains revealed dynamic changes in DNA patterns over time. The team found that the genetic signatures of people from the Early Neolithic period were either rare or absent from modern populations. And only about 19% of the Early Neolithic remains from Central Europe belonged to the H haplogroup. But, from the Middle Neolithic onwards, DNA patterns more closely resembled those of people living in the area today, pointing to a major - and previously unrecognised - population upheaval around 4,000 BC.
Co-author Prof Alan Cooper, from the University of Adelaide in Australia, said: "What is intriguing is that the genetic markers of this first pan-European culture, which was clearly very successful, were then suddenly replaced around 4,500 years ago, and we don't know why.
"Something major happened, and the hunt is now on to find out what that was."
(Could it be the "Great Flood of Noah's time?)
(Could it be the "Great Flood of Noah's time?)
Population growth and migration from western Europe may have driven up the frequency of people carrying haplogroup H.
A significant contribution appears to have been made in the Late Neolithic, by populations linked to the so-called Bell Beaker archaeological culture. Sub-types of haplogroup H that are common today first appear with the Beaker people and the overall percentage of individuals belonging to the H clan jumps sharply at this time.
The origins of the "Beaker folk" are the subject of much debate. Despite having been excavated from the Mittelelbe Saale region of Germany, the Beaker individuals in this study showed close genetic similarities with people from modern Spain and Portugal. Other remains belonging to the Late Neolithic Unetice culture attest to links with populations further east.
"We have established that the genetic foundations for modern Europe were only established in the Mid-Neolithic, after this major genetic transition around 4000 years ago," said co-author Dr Wolfgang Haak.
"This genetic diversity was then modified further by a series of incoming and expanding cultures from Iberia and Eastern Europe through the Late Neolithic."
Dr Spencer Wells, director of the Genographic Project, which was behind the study, commented: "Studies such as this on ancient remains serve as a valuable adjunct to the work we are doing with modern populations in the Genographic Project.
"While the DNA of people alive today can reveal the end result of their ancestors' ancient movements, to really understand the dynamics of how modern genetic patterns were created we need to study ancient material as well."
Take Edom for instance. In Genesis, the Bible narrates a story about where the Edomites, whose origin begins with Essau, (Jacob/Israel's twin brother) came to have and hold their land; just south and east of the Dead Sea.
According to wikipedia: The word Idumea is the græcized form of the Hebrew name 'Edôm (Egypt., Aduma; Assyr., U-du-um-ma-ai, U-du-mu, U-du-mi),
According to Genesis 36:8 sqq., on leaving Canaan, Esau took his abode on Mt. Seir, then the home of the Horites (Genesis 14:6; Mt. Seir is commonly thought to be Jebel esh-Shera, a range prolonging the mountains of Moab, to the east of 'Arabia.
The Tel-el-Amarna tablets, indeed, speak of She-e-ri as a country south of Western Palestine; the same documents mention in that region a city of U-du-mu (Edom), in which Ed-Dome (Ruma of Joshua 15:52 — D. V.; Heb., Dûmah), south-south-west of Hebron, is recognized, the name being sometimes used to designate the country of the Edomites. On the other hand, the route followed by the Israelites, returning from Cades to Asiongaber (A. V.: Eziongeber; Deuteronomy 2:8) and skirting to the east of the 'Arabah through Salmona (unknown), Phunon (Khirbet Fenân) and Oboth (prob. Wady Weibeh), then going north-eastwards to Jeabarim (Kh. 'Ai, east-south-east of Kerak), in order "to compass the land of Edom" (Numbers 21:4), which they were not allowed to cross (Numbers 20:17), indicates that this land did not extend beyond the 'Arabah. Under the name of Idumea, not only Mt. Seir, but all the surrounding region inhabited by tribes claiming an Edomite descent, is usually understood.
In early times the Edomites were governed by 'allûphîm or "dukes"; but during the sojourn of the Hebrews in the desert Mt. Seir was under the control of a king. Genesis 36:31-39, gives a list of "the kings that ruled in the land of Edom, before the children of Israel had a king"; from this list we gather that the Edomite monarchy was elective.
In spite of the blood-relationship uniting Israel and Edom, the two peoples were frequently in conflict. Saul had turned his army against the Edomites (1 Samuel 14:47); David conquered and garrisoned the country (2 Samuel 8:14) and Solomon occupied its ports on the Red Sea (1 Kings 9:26). During Joram's reign, Idumea succeeded in shaking off for a while the yoke of Jerusalem, but Amasias obliged the Edomites once more to own Juda's sway; finally under Achaz they won their independence. With the fall of Juda into the hands of the Babylonians, whom they had joined in the fray, the power of the Edomites waxed stronger, and they took possession of all Southern Palestine, making Hebron their capital. But despite their alliance with the Syrians during the Machabean war, they could not withstand the sturdy onslaught of the Israelite patriots who drove them from the south of Juda.
The loss of their possessions east of the 'Arabah, fallen long since into the hands of the Nabathæans, rendered the Edomites an easy prey to their neighbours, and in 109 B.C. they were conquered by John Hyrcanus, who, however, allowed them to remain in the country on the condition that they should adopt Judaism.
When, at the death of Alexandra (69), Aristobulus endeavoured to wrest the crown from his brother Hyrcanus II, Antipater, Governor of Idumea, took the latter's side in the conflict, and, upon the arrival of the Romans, attached himself closely to them. The assistance he lent to their army in several expeditions, and the services he rendered to Julius Cæsar were rewarded in 47 by the much-coveted title of Roman citizen and the appointment to the procuratorship of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. His son was Herod the Great.