Research highlight

Anthropology: Tracking Early Europeans’ movements

Nature Communications

April 24, 2013

The origins of Central European mitochondrial DNA, in particular haplogroup H, were formed during the Late Neolithic period around 2800 BC rather than in the Early Neolithic (5400 BC). This finding, reported in Nature Communications, sheds further light on the movements of the ancestors of modern European.

It is thought that a combination of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), known as haplogroup H, originated in Southwest Asia around 20,000-25,000 BC and arrived in Europe from the Near East during the Last Glacial Maximum in 13,000 BC Haplogroup H now accounts for over 40% of mtDNA across the modern human population in Western Eurasia. To date, archaeologists believed there was an expansion of this haplotype during the post-glacial period, but it still remains uncertain when and how H became the dominant European mtDNA.

Wolfgang Haak and colleagues sequenced ancient mtDNA taken from skeletal remains in order to reconstruct the demographics of early Europeans. They establish that individuals from the Early Neolithic (5400 BC) made a marginal contribution to Late Neolithic (2800 BC) and present-day genetic diversity in a previously unrecognised major genetic transition. The Late Neolithic was a period of cultural and economic change, with new pan European cultures emerging from the Iberian Peninsula and these data indicate a considerable genetic influx from the West possibly associated with the introduction of lineages from outside Central Europe.

This demographic reconstruction, which is based on direct calibration points helps understanding post-glacial human history in Europe.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms2656

Return to research highlights

PrivacyMark System