Ancient DNA work published in Nature Communications

Photo of human skeleton in archaeological dig

Thu, 25 Apr 2013 14:33:00 BST

Research carried out by an international team of scientists, including Dr Paul Brotherton of the University of Huddersfield’s Archaeogenetics Research Group, on the DNA of ancient skeletons has been published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications. The work reveals how prehistoric events in Europe shaped the modern European population and its gene pool.

The work points to a major upheaval in the European population some 6,000 years ago. By studying the sequences in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of ancient skeletons, DNA that is inherited solely from the mother, the team were able to track lineages by a set of shared mutations defining the H haplogroup. The data shows that around 4000BC the European population underwent a major genetic transition where those largely lacking the H haplogroup were replaced by another group for whom it was more common. This laid the foundations for the gene pool of modern Europe.

This major genetic upheaval is thought to have involved the mass migration of early farming cultures with a significant contribution being linked to the so-called Bell Beaker culture.

“The record of this maternally inherited genetic group, called haplogroup H, shows that the first farmers in Central Europe resulted from a wholesale cultural and genetic input via migration, beginning in Turkey and the Near East where farming originated and arriving in Germany around 7500 years ago,” says Dr Paul Brotherton of the Archaeogenetics Research Group in the School of Applied Sciences, “The expansion of the Bell Beaker culture (named after their pots) appears to have been a key event, emerging in Iberia around 2800 BC and arriving in Germany several centuries later.”

As well as the paper being published in Nature Communications, the work has attracted media interest including BBC News, National Geographic and the Daily Mail.

Back to news index - All Stories