Spread of Agriculture to Europe by Migrants from Anatolia (Turkey)

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wheat flower

Studies of ancient DNA have revealed that the spread of farming across Europe was not merely the result of a transfer of ideas and technology, but was the result of a movement of people — farmers — from the Near East, particularly Anatolia (Turkey). According to the Max Planck Institute: Numerous studies have shown that early farmers from all over Europe, such as the Iberian Peninsula, southern Scandinavia and central Europe, all shared a common origin in the Near East. This was initially an unexpected finding given the diversity of prehistoric cultures and the diverse environments in Europe. [Source: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Science Daily, November 9. 2017]

Wheat and barley agriculture spread out of Fertile crescent by 7000 B.C. By 6000 B.C., it had gotten as far as the Black Sea and present day Greece and Italy. Farming villages in western Greece date to about 7000 B.C.. By 5000 B.C. it had spread to most of southern Europe. The Linear Pottery Culture of central Hungary is believed to have introduced agriculture to central Europe around 5000 B.C. Agriculture finally reached southern Britain and Scandinavia around 3800 B.C. and north Britain and central Scandinavia by 2,500 B.C.

According to Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz: “For most of the last 45,000 years Europe was inhabited solely by hunter-gatherers. About 8,500 years ago a new form of subsistence — farming — started to spread across the continent from modern-day Turkey, reaching central Europe by 7,500 years ago and Britain by 6,100 years ago. This new subsistence strategy led to profound changes in society, including greater population density, new diseases, and poorer health. Such was the impact of farming on how we live that scientists have debated for more than 100 years how it was spread across Europe. Many believed that farming was spread as an idea to European hunter-gatherers but without a major migration of farmers themselves.” [Source: Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz, June 6, 2016]

Frank Jordans of Associated Press wrote: “Stone Age people from the Aegean Sea region moved into central and southern Europe some 8,000 years ago and introduced agriculture to a continent still dominated at the time by hunter-gatherers, scientists say. The findings are based on genetic samples from ancient farming communities in Germany, Hungary and Spain. By comparing these with ancient genomes found at sites in Greece and northwest Turkey, where agriculture was practiced centuries earlier, researchers were able to draw a genetic line linking the European and Aegean populations.” [Source: Frank Jordans, Associated Press June 7, 2016]

Good Websites Archaeology News Report archaeologynewsreport.blogspot.com ; Anthropology.net anthropology.net : archaeologica.org archaeologica.org ; Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com ; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org ; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com; Livescience livescience.com/ ;Food Timeline, History of Food foodtimeline.org ; Food and History teacheroz.com/food

Second Wave of Migrants to Europe — Farmers from Anatolia


There were three waves of immigrants that settled prehistoric Europe. 1) Hunter-gatherers, who were modern humans, whose ancestors evolved in Africa, reached Europe some 45,000 years ago; 2) Neolithic farmers from present-day Turkey had joined them in southern Europe by around 6000 B.C. and pushed deeper into the continent as time went on; and 3) the Yamnaya culture that swept in from Russia around 3300 B.C. and relatively quickly made their presence known. Most Europeans today have DNA from all three groups. Modern Europeans Yamnaya bloodlines are strongest in the north, those of Neolithic farmers in the south.

Andrew Curry wrote in National Geographic: The Konya Plain in central Anatolia is modern Turkey’s breadbasket, a fertile expanse where you can see rainstorms blotting out mountains on the horizon long before they begin spattering the dust around you. It has been home to farmers, says University of Liverpool archaeologist Douglas Baird, since the first days of farming. For more than a decade Baird has been excavating a prehistoric village here called Boncuklu. It’s a place where people began planting small plots of emmer and einkorn, two ancient forms of wheat, and probably herding small flocks of sheep and goats, some 10,300 years ago, near the dawn of the Neolithic period. Within a thousand years the Neolithic revolution, as it’s called, spread north through Anatolia and into southeastern Europe. By about 6,000 years ago, there were farmers and herders all across Europe. [Source: Andrew Curry, National Geographic, August 2019]

“Bones and artifacts some 7,700 years old found at Aktopraklik, a Neolithic village in northwestern Turkey, offer clues to the early days of agriculture. DNA extracted from the skulls of people buried here has helped researchers trace the spread of early farmers into Europe. A grindstone from Aktopraklik testifies to grain farming. A ceramic sherd bears an image of wheat. A terra-cotta statuette of a woman may symbolize fertility.

Theories and Question on The Spread of Agriculture to Europe

According to the University of Wisconsin: “Archaeologists have long wrestled with the question of how farming spread across Europe, ushering in a host of technologies, including the use of pottery, that ultimately led to the rise Western civilizations. Two big ideas have dominated the debate: Did the technology arrive with colonizers from Asia, notably Anatolia or modern Turkey? Or did the technology, including newly domesticated plants and animals, simply diffuse across the European landscape through networks of local foragers? There is some evidence for the importation of early agriculture along the shores of the Mediterranean and in Central Europe, Price notes, “but elsewhere in Europe it is not clear whether it was colonists or locals adopting.”[Source:University of Wisconsin, Madison, February 11, 2013]

According to the “wave of advance” model of Luca Cavalli Sforza agriculture moved westward slowly by farmers whose, swelling population forced them to seek new land in the west. This model is based partly on the fact that agriculture developed in Europe from plants grown in the Middle East not Europe. According to some estimates, the rate of advancement was only about a mile a year. Other scholars believe that agriculture was spread from farmers to hunter-gatherers in a cultural exchange rather than a migration of people.

When the scientists compared the ancient DNA to that of modern-day Europeans, they found that the farmer’s DNA was most similar to Mediterranean populations like Cypriots and Greeks. In contrast, the hunter-gatherer DNA most closely resembled northerners like Finns. The simplest explanation for this pattern is that an ancient migration of farmers started in southern Europe and moved northward over many generations, said the researchers, from Uppsala University in Sweden and other institutions in Sweden and Denmark.

Agriculture developed independently from the Near East in China, Peru and Mexico and other places. Some think agriculture was carried westward from the Near East suddenly and dramatically in early ships. Remains of boats found in Sardinia and Crete show that men have been crossing seas for more than 10,000 years. The plow was invented about 3000 B.C., greatly increase the food output of a given parcel of land.

Europe agricultural revolution

Evidence That First European Farmers Were Migrants Not Converted Hunter-Gatherers

The University of Adelaide reported: “A team of international researchers led by ancient DNA experts did a detailed genetic study of one of the first farming communities in Europe, from central Germany, and found marked similarities with populations living in the Ancient Near East (modern-day Turkey, Iraq and other countries) rather than those from Europe. The results of the study have been published today in the online peer-reviewed science journal PLoS Biology. [Source: University of Adelaide, December, 2010 ||+||]

“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.” “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. ||+||

“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. “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. ||+||

Teeth Say Farming Arrived in Europe with Migrants

According to the University of Wisconsin: “For decades, archaeologists have debated how farming spread to Stone Age Europe, setting the stage for the rise of Western civilization. Data gleaned from the teeth of prehistoric farmers in the early 2010s and the hunter-gatherers with whom they briefly overlapped shows that agriculture was introduced to Central Europe from the Near East by colonizers who brought farming technology with them.

“One of the big questions in European archaeology has been whether farming was brought or borrowed from the Near East,” says T. Douglas Price, a University of Wisconsin-Madison archaeologist who, with Cardiff University’s Dusan Boric, measured strontium isotopes in the teeth of 153 humans from Neolithic burials in an area known as the Danube Gorges in modern Romania and Serbia. [Source:University of Wisconsin, Madison, February 11, 2013]

“The report, which appeared February 11, 2013 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, draws on isotopic signatures of strontium found in the tooth enamel of people who died nearly 8,000 years ago, about 6,200 B.C. Strontium is a chemical found in rocks everywhere. It enters the body through diet at or around birth and etches an indelible signature in teeth that accurately documents the geology of an individual’s birthplace. “The evidence from the Danube Gorges shows clearly that new people came in bringing farming and replaced the earlier Mesolithic hunter-gatherers,” says Price, a UW-Madison professor of anthropology and an expert on early agriculture in Europe.

“The Danube Gorges slice through the Carpathian Mountains and in the Stone Age were a heavily forested setting, rich in fish and game, including huge sturgeon, catfish, red deer and wild boar. The bends and twists of the Danube in the Gorges region made it especially important as a source of fish, and thus potentially a desirable entryway to Europe for highly mobile and expanding Neolithic communities accompanied by their domesticates – wheat, barley, flax, goats and cattle. The new research, explains Price, speaks to the question of colonization versus adoption of transformative technologies such as farming. “It is also useful because it suggests another route across the Black Sea or up the east coast of Bulgaria to the Danube for farmers moving into Europe. This contrasts with movement by sea across the Mediterranean or Aegean, which is the standard picture.”

Y chromosome DNA haplogroups (percentages)

“Isotopic studies of strontium and other chemicals found in the teeth and bones of Neolithic humans, however, are now helping archaeologists better track the movement of ancient peoples across the landscape. Strontium signatures last not just a lifetime, but potentially thousands of years as tooth enamel, the densest tissue in the body, resists decomposition and contamination after death. It is now commonly used by archaeologists to determine if an individual was local or foreign to the place where their remains were discovered.

“An interesting finding of the study is that 8,000 years ago, when Neolithic farmers were beginning to migrate into the Danube Gorges and overlap with Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, more women than men were identified as foreigners. A possible explanation for the variance, according to the study, is that women came to these sites from Neolithic farming communities as part of an ongoing social exchange. In the Danube Gorges, the overlap of colonizing early farmers and hunter-gatherers lasted perhaps a couple of hundred years before the forager societies were completely absorbed by the beginning of the sixth millennium B.C.”

Otzi’s DNA and the Migration of Farmers to Europe

A 2012 study of the genome of Otzi 5300-year-old Iceman, shed light on migration of agriculturalists to and within Europe. A team led by Martin Sikora, a geneticist at Stanford University, confirmed that Sardinians are Ötzi’s closest relatives but Ötzi also closely resembled the farmers found in Bulgaria and Sweden, while the Swedish and Iberian hunter-gatherers looked more like present-day Northern Europeans. [Source: Tia Ghose, Live Science, November 9, 2012 ||*||]

Tia Ghose wrote in Live Science: “The findings support the notion that people migrating from the Middle East all the way to Northern Europe brought agriculture with them and mixed with the native hunter-gatherers, enabling the population to explode, Sikora said. While the traces of these ancient migrations are largely lost in most of Europe, Sardinian islanders remained more isolated and therefore retain larger genetic traces of those first Neolithic farmers, Sikora said. ||*||

“The findings add to a growing body of evidence showing that farming played a major role in shaping the people of Europe, said Chris Gignoux, a geneticist at the University of California San Francisco, who was not involved in the study. I think it’s really intriguing,” Gignoux said. “The more that people are sequencing these ancient genomes from Europe, that we’re really starting to see the impact of farmers moving into Europe.”“||*||

First European Farmers Traced Back to Anatolia

According to Stockholm University: “When farming spread throughout Europe some 8000 years ago, Anatolia functioned as a hub, spreading genes and the new ideas westward. An international study based on DNA from Anatolian remains indicates the importance of the role Anatolia played, and also in attracting attention both from the east and the west. [Source: Stockholm University, January 4, 2016 \=//]

“Human material from the Anatolian site Kumtepe was used in the study. The material was heavily degraded, but yielded enough DNA for the doctorate student Ayca Omrak to address questions concerning the demography connected to the spread of farming. She conducted her work at the Archaeological Research Laboratory. "I have never worked with a more complicated material. But it was worth every hour in the laboratory. I could use the DNA from the Kumtepe material to trace the european farmers back to Anatolia. It is also fun to have worked with this material from the site Kumtepe, as this is the precursor to Troy," says doctorate student Ayca Omrak, at the Archaeological Research Laboratory Stockholm University. \=//

“Jan Storå, associate professor in osteoarchaeology and coauthor to the study agrees with Ayca. The results confirms Anatolias importance to Europe's cultural history. He also thinks that material from the area needs to be researched further. "It is complicated to work with material from this region, it is hot and the DNA is degraded. But if we want to understand how the process that led from a hunter-gatherer society proceeded to a farming society, it is this material we need to exhaust," says Jan Storå, associate professor in osteoarchaeology, Stockholm University. \=// “Anders Götherstörm who heads the archaeogenetic research at the Archaeological Research Laboratory agrees that this study indicates further possibilities: "Our results stress the importance Anatolia has had on Europe's prehistory. But to fully understand how the agricultural development proceeded we need to dive deeper down into material from the Levant. Jan is right about that." \=//

Haplogroup I (Y-DNA)

Two Groups Carried Early Agriculture East and West

Fertile Crescent cultures diverged and took take farming east and west based on DNA taken from bone fragment from a 7,000-year-old farmer discovered in a cave in the Zagros region of Iran and the DNA of three other individuals from a second Iranian site. Amy McDermott wrote in Science: “The cradle of agricultural civilization was culturally diverse. Two societies lived side-by-side 10,000 years ago in the rich Near Eastern valleys of the Fertile Crescent, where humans first learned to farm, a new study finds. Over time, one group expanded west, carrying agriculture into Europe. The other spread east, taking their traditions into South Asia, researchers report online July 14 in Science. “We thought the people of the Fertile Crescent were one group genetically and culturally, but in fact they were probably two or more,” says paleogeneticist Joachim Burger of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, who led the new study. It’s time to rethink the textbook idea that modern Europeans and South Asians descend from a single Stone Age people, he says. [Source: Amy McDermott, sciencenews.org, July 14, 2016 ||-||]

“Earlier this year, Burger’s team reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the first European farmers came from western Anatolia near the present site of Istanbul. Scientists suspected that the Anatolians had started out even further east, at older sites in Iran, Iraq, Syria and southeastern Turkey where farming began about 10,000 years ago. But DNA from 7,000- to 10,000-year-old remains, found at two ancient Iranian settlements, told a different story. Carbon and nitrogen ratios in bones showed that the people there ate more cultivated cereals than meat. While they were farmers and had lived several thousand years before the Anatolians, genetic analysis showed that the two blood lines were not closely related. ||-||

“In fact, the two groups had probably separated more than 45,000 years earlier, just after humans left Africa, says statistical geneticist Garrett Hellenthal of University College London, a coauthor of the new study. Even 10,000 years ago, the ancestors of Iranians and Anatolians had already been isolated for 36,000 to 67,000 years. Evidence of the Anatolian farmers is a few thousand years younger than the Iranian remains, but both cultures “must have known each other to some extent,” Burger says. People in the two groups probably looked different and spoke separate languages, Burger says. They didn’t intermarry, but undoubtedly shared the ideas of early agriculture. It would have taken centuries to convert from hunting and gathering to an agrarian way of life. “Domestication of wild beasts is nothing you do over the weekend,” Burger says. And “you don’t invent something crazy and complicated like farming coincidently at the same time.” ||-||

“Not everyone agrees with that conclusion. “The change from hunting to farming happened probably several times,” says archaeologist Roger Matthews of the University of Reading in England, who was not involved in the new work. While both the Anatolians and Iranians were farmers, “it’s not actually the same idea they’re coming up with,” he says. In the east, early agrarians focused on goats as well as barley and wheat, while in the west, shepherds raised sheep and other foods. Both communities probably took initial but separate steps toward farming, Matthews says. ||-||

“Sometime after farming was developed, the two cultures began to move apart. Why they spread so differently is still a mystery. More DNA samples from ancient people east of the Fertile Crescent are necessary to confirm that people spread from Iran eastward, says anthropologist Christina Papageorgopoulou of the Democritus University of Thrace in Greece. She coauthored the Anatolian study but was not involved in the new work. ||-||

“More DNA from within the Fertile Crescent could also reveal a border or boundary between ancient Anatolians and Iranians. “I cannot imagine there was a connection,” she says. If there had been, scientists would see have seen it in the DNA. “I think there is some kind of barrier there.” At this point, scientists can speak broadly about the blood relationships between these early farmers, but more high-quality DNA samples would let researchers zoom in to the village or household scale, to “come closer to ancient humans and how they lived,” Burger says. His vision is to analyze whole Stone Age villages, to reconstruct ancient family trees, understand who migrated where and move “from a global to a village view.”“||-||

Haplogroup J (Y-DNA)

Did Agriculture Came to Europe by Sea and By Land?

Some think agriculture was carried westward from the Near East suddenly and dramatically in early ships. Remains of boats found in Sardinia and Crete show that men have been crossing seas for more than 10,000 years. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in June 2016 that supports the idea that at least some migrants came by sea and challenges the notion that farming simply spread from one population to another through cultural diffusion.

Joachim Burger, one of the study's authors, said genetic analyses of the samples of farmers from Spain, Germany and Greece showed that the ancient farmers in central Europe and Spain were more closely related to an earlier Aegean group than to each other. This suggests that farmers came in two separate waves — northward into the continent and westward along the coastline to Spain. "One is the Balkan route and one is the Mediterranean route, as we know it also from migration of today," Burger, an anthropologist and population geneticist at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, told Associated Press. [Source :Frank Jordans, Associated Press, June 7, 2016]

Frank Jordans of Associated Press wrote: “Researchers were also able to deduce some characteristics of the ancient Aegean farmers based on their DNA, he said. They were relatively fair-skinned with dark eyes and didn't yet have the genes necessary to digest milk after childhood — a trait that only developed in Europe later. The Aegean farmers also appeared to be closely related to Oetzi the Iceman, whose well-preserved remains were found on a glacier on the border between Austria and Italy. Finally, by comparing the ancient samples to those of modern-day Europeans, the scientists found that the ancient farmers weren't their direct ancestors. These ancestors also include the hunter-gatherers, who eventually mixed with the newcomers and a third population thought to have arrived in Europe from the eastern steppes about 5,000 years ago.

An expert not involved with the study said it was "solid and well done," but cautioned that some of its conclusions were based on limited data. "Small statistical effects might be (a) fluke," said Michael Hofreiter, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Potsdam, Germany. But the insight into Europe's Stone Age migration offered by the study was valuable, Hofreiter said. "It adds to our knowledge about human history. And I think it is always valuable to replace speculation by factual evidence," he said. Burger said researchers will now investigate whether the Aegean farmers can be linked directly to populations further southeast in the Fertile Crescent stretching from Syria to southwest Iran, where agriculture is known to have first emerged more than 10,000 years ago.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Ancient Foods ancientfoods.wordpress.com ; Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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