Most European Men are Descended from just Three Bronze Age Warlords, New Study Reveals
The majority of European men are descended from just a handful of Bronze Age male ancestors, says a new genetic study in the journal Nature.
The presence of genetic material from just a few men in the Y chromosome sequence resulted from a population explosion several thousand years ago, researchers said. The team of scientists found that there was a huge increase in the population 2,000 to 4,000 years ago, in a band from Greece and the Balkans to the British Isles and Scandinavia.
Europe in the late bronze age of about 1100 BC. (Map by Xoil, Wikimedia Commons)
Popular Archaeology reported on the study , saying the researchers from the University of Leicester in England, headed by Professor Mark Jobling, determined the origin of DNA sequences of a big part of the Y chromosome in 334 men from 17 populations in Europe and the Middle East. They found three very young branches of DNA account for Y chromosomes of 64 percent of the men who gave genetic material for the study. The team used new methods for analyzing DNA variation to give a less biased picture of diversity and to give a better estimate of timing of population variations.
"The population expansion falls within the Bronze Age, which involved changes in burial practices, the spread of horse-riding and developments in weaponry. Dominant males linked with these cultures could be responsible for the Y chromosome patterns we see today,” Jobling told Popular Archaeology.
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Research into Europeans' genetic heritage had previously focused on Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) or New Stone Age (Neolithic) ancestor-farmers of about 10,000 years ago.
The principal author of the study in Nature, Chiara Batini of the University of Leicester, said: "Given the cultural complexity of the Bronze Age, it's difficult to link a particular event to the population growth that we infer. But Y-chromosome DNA sequences from skeletal remains are becoming available, and this will help us to understand what happened, and when."
The new study found that just three Bronze Age warriors were responsible for today’s genetic patterns in Europe. ( Mike Bishop / Flickr )
A finding by researchers from Harvard Univerity in Boston found in 2014 that the European population was descended from three tribes where there was intermarrying. This study too was in the journal Nature.
The BBC, reporting on the study , said the modern European gene pool developed from the three populations within the past 7,000 years.
“Blue-eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East. But another, mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent. ... Multiple lines of evidence suggested this new way of life was spread by a wave of migrants, who interbred with the indigenous European hunter-gatherers they encountered on the way,” the BBC wrote.
The study found humans arrived in Europe about 45,000 years ago. These people were replaced by others who arrived from the Near East and the Levant about 7,000 years ago, researchers who examined ancient and modern DNA found. Researches from Harvard found most modern Europeans have a mixture of early European farmer DNA, western European hunter-gatherer DNA and some northern Eurasian ancestry.
For this study the researchers studied DNA in ancient bones of seven Scandinavian hunter-gatherers, one from Luxembourg and an ancient farmer from the area of Stuttgart, Germany and compared it to the genomes of 2,000 modern people around the world. So this was different than the more recent study by the University of Leicester, which examined just modern DNA of living men.
Featured image: Bronze Age warriors on the lookout ( Mike Bishop / Flickr )
By Mark Miller