Wednesday, December 21, 2005

more on the origins of Europeans

Just ran across this on the National Geographic news feed. Recall that I wrote a while back about DNA evidence supporting the idea that modern Europeans are the descendents of pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers, not the descendents of the people who developed farming in the fertile crescent around 7500 years ago (which then spread into Europe). The latter idea had been the predominent theory, supported by (among other things) some linguistic evidence. Now there's new evidence from skeletons that agrees with the DNA analysis, and further weakens support for the idea that the proto-Indo-Europeans brought farming to Europe, replacing the people who were there before.

According to University of Michigan anthropologist Loring Brace and colleagues:
[M]odern Europeans are closely related and descended from prehistoric indigenous peoples. Later Neolithic settlers—notably immigrants who introduced farming from the Near East some 7,500 years ago—contributed little to how Europeans look today...

The findings are based on 24 face measurements of modern-day Europeans compared with those of their prehistoric predecessors.

The team focused on facial dimensions which are "neutral" and don't change as human populations adapt over time to different environments and lifestyles.

Because these features are passed down generation to generation, they are good markers of human ancestry...



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