Hunter-gatherers and immigrant farmers lived side-by-side for more than 2,000 years in Central Europe, before the hunter-gatherer communities died out or were absorbed into the farming population.
In a paper published today in Science, researchers describe their analysis of DNA and isotopes from human bones found in the ‘Blätterhöhle’ cave near Hagen in Germany, where both hunter-gatherers and farmers were buried.
The team, led by anthropologist Professor Joachim Burger of the Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany, used stable isotopes to determine their diet, DNA to investigate how they were related, and radiocarbon to establish how old the bones were. Read more.
Feast or famine was the rule for Europe’s first farmers, archaeologists report. A population bust followed boom times in early agriculture from France to Ireland, a catalog of radiocarbon dates reveals.
Farming first moved into Europe from Greece around 8,500 years ago, spreading to Ireland and northern Europe over the next several thousand years. The switch from hunting and gathering to farming was a giant step forward for humanity, but the results from early Europe point to tough times for early farmers.
"Likely it played out in stark terms of soil degradation, probably ending in disease and warfare," says anthropologist Sean Downey of the University of Maryland in College Park, a co-author of the new Nature Communications journal study. “It’s fairly depressing and Malthusian, what happened.” Read more.
Humans originated in Africa. But what route did they take as they began to disperse around the world 60,000 years ago? A new professor at the University of Huddersfield has played a key role in finding the answer to one of the most fundamental questions in the history of mankind.
Professor Richards, who moved to Huddersfield from the University of Leeds, is a pioneer in the field – one of just two professors of archaeogenetics in the world. He uses DNA evidence to study human origins, comparing data from modern samples across the world and occasionally to that which can be obtained from ancient sources such as skeletal remains and fossilised teeth. Read more.
The ancestors of people from across Europe and Asia may have spoken a common language about 15,000 years ago, new research suggests.
Now, researchers have reconstructed words, such as “mother,” “to pull” and “man,” which would have been spoken by ancient hunter-gatherers, possibly in an area such as the Caucuses or the modern-day country of Georgia. The word list, detailed today (May 6) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help researchers retrace the history of ancient migrations and contacts between prehistoric cultures.
"We can trace echoes of language back 15,000 years to a time that corresponds to about the end of the last ice age," said study co-author Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. Read more.
From prehistory to the present with many episodes in between, the region has a surprisingly meaty history of humans eating humans
In 2001, a lonely computer technician living in the countryside in Northern Germany advertised online for a well-built man willing to participate in a mutually satisfying sexual act. Armin Meiwes’ notice was similar to many others on the Internet except for a rather important detail: The requested man must be willing to be killed and eaten.
Meiwes didn’t have to look far. Two hundred and thirty miles away in Berlin, an engineer called Bernd Brandes agreed to travel to Meiwes’ farmhouse. There, a gory video later found by police documented Brandes’ consensual participation in the deadly dinner. The cannibalism was both a shock to the German public and a conundrum to German prosecutors wanting to charge Meiwes with a crime. Read more.
The genetic lineage of Europe mysteriously transformed about 4,500 years ago, new research suggests.
The findings, detailed today (April 23) in the journal Nature Communications, were drawn from several skeletons unearthed in central Europe that were up to 7,500 years old.
"What is intriguing is that the genetic markers of this first pan-European culture, which was clearly very successful, were then suddenly replaced around 4,500 years ago, and we don’t know why," said study co-author Alan Cooper, of the University of Adelaide Australian Center for Ancient DNA, in a statement. "Something major happened, and the hunt is now on to find out what that was." Read more.
La Roca dels Bous, a Paleolithic site located near the southeastern Pyrenees of Spain, has been cited by archaeologists as a key location with Neanderthal-related remains that may shed light on the changes that may have contributed to the demise of the Neanderthals in Europe. Now, a team led by Dr. Rafael Mora of the University Autonomous of Barcelona will be returning to the site in 2013 to excavate and explore lithic assemblages, fossil bone, and other remains that may date as far back as 50,000 BP.
The excavations may help research efforts focused on constructing a better understanding of the factors that may have contributed to the decline and eventual disappearance of humanity’s most closely related extinct human species. Read more.
A team of archaeologists have unearthed additional evidence of what may have been Europe’s first civilization at a site located near the town of Pazardzhik in southern Bulgaria. Known as Yunatsite, it is a Tell (mound containing archaeological remains) about 110 meters in diameter and 12 meters high, rising above fields next to a small Bulgarian village by the same name. The Tell contains remains of an urbanized settlement dated at its earliest to the early fifth millenium BC.
Directed by Yavor Boyadzhiev of the National Institute of Archaeology and Museums, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, excavators have unearthed artifacts such as weapons, Spondylus jewels, decorated fineware pottery, shards marked by characters/pictograms, and evidence of structures dated to 4900 BC, including fortifications and a recently discovered wooden platform that was likely the floor of a building that had been destroyed by fire. Read more.