The first genome-wide data from a 15,000-year-old Anatolian hunter gatherer is presented in Nature Communications this week. The findings provide insights into the origins of farming in central Anatolia, which was home to some of the earliest farming communities outside the Fertile Crescent.
Agriculture began in the Fertile Crescent of southwest Asia around 10,000 to 9,000 BCE. These practices then spread across western Eurasia, reaching central Anatolia (a region of present-day Turkey) by approximately 8,300 BCE. However, it is currently unknown whether this was a result of the migration of ancient farmers from neighbouring regions, or the adoption of farming practices by local hunter-gatherers.
Johannes Krause and colleagues analysed genomic data from an Anatolian hunter-gatherer, five early Neolithic Anatolian farmers and two Early Neolithic farmers from the southern Levant, resulting in a genetic record that spans the advent of agriculture in the region. The authors found that the Neolithic Anatolian populations derived a large fraction of their ancestry from the hunter-gatherers, which supports a local origin for the first farmers of central Anatolia. They also detected genetic links with early Iranian/ Caucasian, Levantine, and southern European populations that further depict a complex history of ancient genetic and technological exchange. Based on their findings, the authors suggest that Anatolia was not just a stepping stone in the movement of early farmers from the Fertile Crescent into Europe. They argue that it was a place where local hunter-gatherers adopted ideas, plants and technology that led to agricultural subsistence.