October 12, 2013
Human DNA From 7500 To 3500 Years Ago Sequenced

Mitochondrial DNA samples were successfully extracted from 364 human skeletons to detect human migration waves into Europe.

Ancient DNA recovered from a time series of skeletons in Germany spanning 4,000 years of prehistory has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern-day Europeans.

The study, published today in Science, reveals dramatic population changes with waves of prehistoric migration, not only from the accepted path via the Near East, but also from Western and Eastern Europe.

The research was a collaboration between the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), at the University of Adelaide, researchers from the University of Mainz, the State Heritage Museum in Halle (Germany), and National Geographic Society's Genographic Project. The teams used mitochondrial DNA (maternally inherited DNA) extracted from bone and teeth samples from 364 prehistoric human skeletons ‒ ten times more than previous ancient DNA studies.

"This is the largest and most detailed genetic time series of Europe yet created, allowing us to establish a complete genetic chronology," says joint-lead author Dr Wolfgang Haak of ACAD. "Focussing on this small but highly important geographic region meant we could generate a gapless record, and directly observe genetic changes in 'real-time' from 7,500 to 3,500 years ago, from the earliest farmers to the early Bronze Age."

The scientists think they were able to detect a surge of hunter-gatherers after the farmers became well established. Was that due to war or crop failures? Or how about interbreeding or a new wave of farmer humans that had mitochondrial DNA similar to that of the hunter-gatherers?

Mitochondrial DNA is really small, less than 15,000 letters. What would be a lot more interesting: sequencing of the nuclear DNA. Almost 3 billion letters. A lot more signals. I would like to know how different, on average, were humans from 5000 or 8000 years ago. Did they have genetic variants that made them more violent? How smart were they? Were they more or less hyperactive than humans today? Did they have shorter innate time horizons for planning?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 October 12 06:42 PM 

Sam said at October 14, 2013 12:37 PM:

I would think it likely that loss of territory would mean all the Men killed and the Women raped. Since the mitochondrial DNA comes from the mother I wonder how long it would take for the conquers mDNA to predominate? Yes I know it's a crude question but something to think about.

James Bowery said at October 14, 2013 3:45 PM:

Place your bets!

Yowzah Yowzah Yowzah!

Oh, I forgot:

Pseudonymous non-existent reputations aren't even at risk that someone will read what they've written in the past.

Anonymous said at October 17, 2013 6:07 AM:

Mutochondrial DNA only tells the story of the maternal lineage. It is likely that the same mDNA has different nDNA in the same lineage from multiple male lines i.e. mother's baby father's maybe. This adds bias to conclusions drawn about origins of man. Care should be taken!

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