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Genetics and the Origin of Early Farmers

26 August 2022
Ancient history

At https://www.science.org/content/article/phenomenal-ancient-dna-data-set-provides-clues-origin-farming-and-early-languages … this is another genetic study that creeps outside of genetics and claims to identify language changes, or introductions, something entirely independent of dna. We are therefore presented with another theory on the origin of the Indo European speakers. The Near East has been an important crucible as far as the origin of agriculture is concerned. In this study, by Near East, they mean the eastern Mediterranean in general, right up to the Agean, as well as the Levant. In Science magazine this month there are 3 papers on the subject of DNA, using 700 individuals who lived and died over the last 10,000 years. They came from burials stretching from Croatia to Iran. The earliest skeletal material came from Anatolia, modern Turkey. The DNA shos they derive from 3 strains – one being hunter gatherers, assumed to be endemic to Anatolia. However, migrants from Syria and what is now Iraq moved into Anatolia between 10,000 and 6500 years ago. Another group came from the coastal zone of the eastern Mediterranean, which is for now a bit ambiguous. Are they talking about people living in central Anatolia?

The main thing to take hold of is that by 6500 years ago all three groups had hybridised into a distinct genetic group. This doesn’t explain the date of 6500 years ago but interesting at that time, roughly 4500-4200BC, Neolithic farmers arrived in Britain from the continent, after evidence of widespread landscape fires. Did something similar occur around that time in Anatolia as we learn that hunter gatherers from the Caucasus spilled into the region, once known as Asia Minor. Later, around 5000 years ago, or 3000BC, people from the steppes arrived. It is assumed they were the Yamnaya culture people that also spread east and west, and possibly to the south east as well. They penetrated as far south as Ur in southern Iraq, leaving archaeologists the gift of the Royal Graves of Ur [attributed to the Jemdat Nasr culture people]. A large body moved west and overrun Europe, or established themselves as a ruling elite. The Yamnaya added to the genetic signature of the people of the eastern Mediterranean, which would include the Greeks. However, their genetic signature was not distinctive, described as a sauce topping on top of the cake.

There are in fact 3 papers in Science journal, from different authors and researchers with a different take on the findings. Historians will be looking at them in order to see how this information affects long held views. Some linguists are already critical as the assumption that genetics can pin point language change is challenged. It is interesting to note that in this new study Indo European languages are considered to have an origin in the Caucasus. Are they pointing a finger at the hunter gatherer eruption at 6500 years ago?

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