Farming Arrived In Stone Age Europe Via Near East Migrants
February 12, 2013

Farming Arrived In Stone Age Europe Via Near East Migrants

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

The seeds for the rise of Western civilization were planted when humans living in Europe began to adopt farming, a more efficient and reliable way to supply food, as opposed to hunting and gathering.

A recent report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found farming technology was brought to the region by people who moved there from the Near East.

"One of the big questions in European archaeology has been whether farming was brought or borrowed from the Near East," said report co-author T. Douglas Price, a University of Wisconsin-Madison archaeologist. "The evidence from the Danube Gorges shows clearly that new people came in bringing farming and replaced the earlier Mesolithic hunter-gatherers.”

Price and Cardiff University's Dusan Boric made this discovery by dating the strontium isotopes in the teeth of 153 humans from Neolithic graves found in an area known as the Danube Gorges, located in modern Romania and Serbia. The strontium isotopes indicated the teeth came from people who died around 6,200 B.C., nearly 8,000 years ago.

Strontium is a naturally occurring chemical element found in the earth. It is typically ingested through common foods at or around birth. At this time, it etches an indelible signature in teeth which can be used to accurately document the geology of a person´s birthplace.

Formed by the Danube River, the Danube Gorges carve out the Carpathian Mountains and were a heavily forested setting during the Stone Age. The contours of the Danube River in this region made it an ideal source of fish. Along with the prevalence of wild game such as red deer and wild boar, the presence of sturgeon and catfish probably made the gorges a key European entrance for the expanding Neolithic communities .The study´s findings suggest these people´s also brought domesticated wheat, barley, goats and cattle with them.

“[The study] is also useful because it suggests another route across the Black Sea or up the east coast of Bulgaria to the Danube for farmers moving into Europe,” Price said in a statement. “This contrasts with movement by sea across the Mediterranean or Aegean, which is the standard picture."

Previous studies have shown signs of early agriculture along the shores of the Mediterranean and in Central Europe, "but elsewhere in Europe it is not clear whether it was colonists or locals adopting,” Price noted.

This latest study and other on-going research projects are helping archaeologists to flesh out the migrations of ancient peoples across Europe. Because strontium signatures last thousands of years, dating technology is now being used to determine if an individual was local or foreign to the place where they were buried.

The strontium analysis also identified more women than men as foreigners buried in the Danube Gorges sites. In the study, Price and Boric theorized these women came to the region as part of some type of social exchange.

Previous research has shown the colonizing Neolithic farming communities overlapped the hunter-gatherer groups for about a few hundred years before the forager societies were completely absorbed.