DNA analyses of some 40 ancient human skeletons from Central Europe has thrown light on the prehistoric events that have shaped modern European populations.
It is well known that two major events had a major impact on the gene pool of modern Europeans. The first was the migration of primitive hunter-gatherers into the continent some 35,000 years ago. This was followed by a new wave of farmers from the Near East in the early Neolithic approx. 6000 years ago.
A new study by an international team of specialists, published recently in Nature Communications, used mitochondrial DNA analyses of 37 human skeletons from the Mitelelbe Saale region of Germany and two from Italy. The remains span an interval of 3,500 years, from the Early Neolithic to the Bronze age.The results indicate that events some time after the initial migration of early Neolithic farmers had a significant impact on the genetic makeup of today’s population. It appears that a major population upheaval, the details of which are unknown, took place in the Mid-Neolithic, some 4,000 years ago. The gene pool was further modified by new waves of migrants from Spain, Portugal and Eastern Europe in the late Neolithic