Aegean Neolithic populations have been descendants of local Aegean Mesolithic groups who adopted farming – Direct genetic link between Mediterranean and Central European early farmers and those of Greece and Anatolia

In this post we present and discuss some recent paleogenomic data.

From the paper titled “Early farmers from across Europe directly descended from Neolithic Aegeans“, by Zuzana Hofmanová et al. (2016), we read:

“(Abstract) Farming and sedentism first appeared in southwestern Asia during the early Holocene and later spread to neighboring regions, including Europe, along multiple dispersal routes. Conspicuous uncertainties remain about the relative roles of migration, cultural diffusion, and admixture with local foragers in the early Neolithization of Europe. Here we present paleogenomic data for five Neolithic individuals from northern Greece and northwestern Turkey spanning the time and region of the earliest spread of farming into Europe. We use a novel approach to recalibrate raw reads and call genotypes from ancient DNA and observe striking genetic similarity both among Aegean early farmers and with those from across Europe. Our study demonstrates a direct genetic link between Mediterranean and Central European early farmers and those of Greece and Anatolia, extending the European Neolithic migratory chain all the way back to southwestern Asia.”

“(Significance) One of the most enduring and widely debated questions in prehistoric archaeology concerns the origins of Europe’s earliest farmers: Were they the descendants of local hunter-gatherers, or did they migrate from southwestern Asia, where farming began? We recover genome-wide DNA sequences from early farmers on both the European and Asian sides of the Aegean to reveal an unbroken chain of ancestry leading from central and southwestern Europe back to Greece and northwestern Anatolia. Our study provides the coup de grâce to the notion that farming spread into and across Europe via the dissemination of ideas but without, or with only a limited, migration of people.”

“Recent radiocarbon dating indicates that by 6,600–6,500 calibrated (cal) BCE sedentary farming communities were established in northwestern Anatolia at sites such as Barcın, Menteşe, and Aktopraklık C and in coastal western Anatolia at sites such as Çukuriçi and Ulucak, but did not expand north or west of the Aegean for another several hundred years. All these sites show material culture affinities with the central and southwestern Anatolian Neolithic.

Early Greek Neolithic sites, such as the Franchthi Cave in the Peloponnese, Knossos in Crete, and Mauropigi, Paliambela, and Revenia in northern Greece date to a similar period. The distribution of obsidian from the Cycladic islands, as well as similarities in material culture, suggest extensive interactions since the Mesolithic and a coeval Neolithic on both sides of the Aegean.”

“We present five ancient genomes from both, the European and Asian sides of the northern Aegean (…) Two of the higher-coverage genomes are from Barcın, south of the Marmara Sea in Turkey, one of the earliest Neolithic sites in northwestern Anatolia (individuals Bar8 and Bar31). On the European side of the Aegean, one genome is from the early Neolithic site of Revenia (Rev5), and the remaining two are from the late and final Neolithic sites of Paliambela (Pal7) and Kleitos (Klei10), dating to ∼2,000 y later”

The mtDNA haplogroups of all five Neolithic individuals are typical of those found in central European Neolithic farmers and modern Europeans, but not in European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Likewise, the Y-chromosomes of the two male individuals belong to haplogroup G2a2, which has been observed in European Neolithic farmers; in Ötzi, the Tyrolean Iceman; and in modern western and southwestern Eurasian populations, but not in any pre-Neolithic European hunter-gatherers. The mitochondrial haplogroups of two additional less well-preserved Greek Mesolithic individuals (Theo1, Theo5; SI Appendix, Table S6) belong to lineages observed in Neolithic farmers from across Europe; consistent with Aegean Neolithic populations, unlike central European Neolithic populations, being the direct descendants of the preceding Mesolithic peoples who inhabited broadly the same region.”

“The high levels of shared drift between Aegean and all available Early Neolithic genomes in Europe, together with the inferred unique drift between Neolithic Aegeans and Early Neolithic genomes from Northern Spain to the exclusion of Early Neolithic genomes from central Europe, indicate that Aegean Neolithic populations can be considered the root for all early European farmers and that at least two independent colonization routes were followed.”

Neolithic pottery from Greece

From the paper titled “Archaeogenomic analysis of the first steps of Neolithization in Anatolia and the Aegean”, by Gülşah Merve Kılınc et al. (2017), we read:

“(Abstract) The Neolithic transition in west Eurasia occurred in two main steps: the gradual development of sedentism and plant cultivation in the Near East and the subsequent spread of Neolithic cultures into the Aegean and across Europe after 7000 cal BCE. Here, we use published ancient genomes to investigate gene flow events in west Eurasia during the Neolithic transition. We confirm that the Early Neolithic central Anatolians in the ninth millennium BCE were probably descendants of local hunter–gatherers, rather than immigrants from the Levant or Iran. We further study the emergence of post-7000 cal BCE north Aegean Neolithic communities. Although Aegean farmers have frequently been assumed to be colonists originating from either central Anatolia or from the Levant, our findings raise alternative possibilities: north Aegean Neolithic populations may have been the product of multiple westward migrations, including south Anatolian emigrants, or they may have been descendants of local Aegean Mesolithic groups who adopted farming. These scenarios are consistent with the diversity of material cultures among Aegean Neolithic communities and the inheritance of local forager know-how. The demographic and cultural dynamics behind the earliest spread of Neolithic culture in the Aegean could therefore be distinct from the subsequent Neolithization of mainland Europe.”

“Alternatively, the Aegean coast Mesolithic populations may have been part of the Anatolian-related gene pool that occupied the Aegean seaboard during the Early Holocene. Under this scenario, the north Aegean PN populations would be at least partial descendants of local hunter–gatherers who adopted Neolithic lifestyle post-7000 cal BCE, triggered by contacts with central Anatolian and the Levantine populations.

The following events would be conceivable.

(a) during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the Aegean evolved into a refuge hosting a significant human population, which is in line with climatic modelling; estimates of human population density during the Marine Isotope Stage 2 in west (but not central) Anatolia reach one of their highest levels in Europe. The existence of an Aegean human population going back to the LGM is also consistent with mitochondrial haplogroup-based analyses, and that Anatolian-like mitochondrial haplogroups are found also in Mesolithic Balkan and Aegean populations.

(b) Following the LGM, Aegean emigrants dispersed into central Anatolia and established populations that eventually gave rise to the local Epipalaeolithic and later Neolithic communities, in line with the earliest direct evidence for human presence in central Anatolia ca 14 000 cal BCE. This hypothetical out-of-the-Aegean event coincides with the post-LGM Near East-related migration signatures in European Mesolithic genomes.

(c) Between the LGM and post-7000 cal BCE Neolithization, WHG, Natufian and Caucasus/Iran-related groups admixed with north Aegeans, differentiating the latter from their central Anatolian relatives

(d) Post-7000 cal BCE, there occurred additional, albeit limited central Anatolian gene flow back into the Aegean (…)

Both the migration and acculturation models for Aegean Neolithization enjoy support from material culture investigations, but the overall evidence points to a complex process where Aegean societies were culturally influenced by diverse sources, including the central Anatolian Neolithic, the Levant Neolithic and possibly local Mesolithic traditions.

In contrast to the relative homogeneity of European Neolithic cultures, such as the LBK and Cardial, the Aegean Neolithic is noted for its diversity. Variation in Neolithic Package elements and primary zone traditions is notable across Aegean sites, among regions (e.g. east and west of Marmara), even between closely neighbouring villages. This diversity includes, for example, obsidian, with Greek Aegean (Melos) or mainland Anatolian (Cappadocian) sources being preferred in some settlements, and yet other settlements showing no evidence of obsidian use. Cultural trait diversity involves architecture, tool types, ceramics and symbolic elements (such as figurines and intramural burial), which may show partial similarities to either central Anatolia or to the Levant, or may be unique. For instance, intramural burial, a common feature among primary zone sites, is also widespread in east Marmara early Neolithic villages (including Barcın), but totally absent in settlements only 200 km west. Mesolithic-like lithic industries and the prominence of seafood in some settlements further imply the continuing presence of Aegean Mesolithic traditions into the Neolithic. Indeed, lively seafaring activity was prevalent in the Mediterranean and the Aegean already by the eleventh millennium BCE, as evidence from Cyprus, Crete, Franchti, Cyclops Cave, Ouirakos and other Aegean island and coastal mainland Mesolithic sites demonstrates.

Instead of a single-sourced colonization process, the Aegean Neolithization may thus have flourished upon already existing coastal and interior interaction networks connecting Aegean foragers with the Levantine and central Anatolian PPN populations, and involved multiple cultural interaction events from its early steps onward.”

NovoScriptorium: We remain sceptical about Genomics Research and proper/correct DNA analyses. However, the above results seem to be in accordance with the Archaeological record and with Logic. The Aegeans were local, indigenous people. What makes us adamant on this is the surviving written Tradition known as ‘Greek Mythology’. Several Mythological events can be dated with the aid of modern scientific findings from the fields of Archaeology, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeogeography and Archaeoastronomy. We have already presented some of our relative findings in previous posts, while we have many more coming in the future.

We have convinced ourselves that the Classical Greeks, who have recorded the majority of the Mythological Traditions in written form as their own Tradition and “National History”, were descendants of -at least- the Mesolithic/Early Neolithic populations of the Greek peninsula and both sides of the Aegean. They certainly boasted about being indigenous in the area. Mythology suggests (we shall continue to  present all the supportive information in future posts) that the Aegeans expanded from the Aegean towards almost every direction. It is already confirmed that the European Neolithic is unbreakably linked with the expansion of Aegean populations all across Europe. The Myths also suggest an expansion into Anatolia and mingling with the local populations. They also suggest some population movements from Anatolia towards the Aegean. The above published results appear to confirm the Myths -once again- indicating both a “continuity” and an “admixture”, something rather expected, but in no way a “massive population replacement” which some suggest.

For those unfamiliar with our original type of Research, we suggest a read of some of our previous relative posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

Research-Selection-Comments for NovoScriptorium: Maximus E. Niles, Isidoros Aggelos

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