New paper analysing DNA of prehistoric remains in North East Europe

A new paper involving Environment Institute members Clio Der Sarkissian, Alan Cooper and Wolfgang Haak as well as Oleg Balanovsky(Russian Academy of Medical Sciences & Russian Academy of Sciences), Valery Zaporozhchenko (Russian Academy of Medical Sciences), Elena Balanovska (Russian Academy of Medical Sciences),Guido Brandt (Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz), Kurt W. Alt (Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz),Valery Khartanovich(Kunstkamera Museum), Vyacheslav Moiseyev (Kunstkamera Museum),Alexandra Buzhilova (Russian Academy of Sciences), Sergey Koshel (Moscow State University),Römisch-Germanisches (Zentralmuseum), Eugen Kolpakov(Russian Academy of Science), Vladimir Shumkin(Russian Academy of Science) has recently been published in the journal PLoS Genetics.

The paper titled Ancient DNA Reveals Prehistoric Gene-Flow from Siberia in the Complex Human Population History of North East Europeanalysed the mitochondrial DNA of prehistoric remains from archaeological sites in North East Europe dated to 7,500 and 3,500 years Before Present.

Wolfgang Haak, one of the contributing authors on the paper

Wolfgang Haak, one of the contributing authors on the paper

This region in Europe displays a significant cultural and linguistic diversity today, however no ancient human DNA was available before. The resutls show that prehistoric hunter-gatherers of North East Europe were genetically similar to other European foragers. The authors also detected a prehistoric genetic input from Siberia, followed by migrations from Western Europe into North East Europe.

This research contributes to the understanding of the origins and past dynamics of human population in Europe.

Download the paper to find out more.

Origins of first European farmers revealed

A team of international researchers led by ancient DNA experts from the Environment Institute,  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.