September 4, 2009

DNA shows farmers replaced hunter-gatherer

The ancestors of modern-day Europeans likely were farmers and not hunter-gatherers, British researchers said.

DNA analysis taken from burial grounds suggests early farmers migrated into Europe with plants and domesticated animals and replaced Stone Age hunter-gatherers, geneticist Mark Thomas of University College London said in a release Friday.

There is little evidence of a genetic link between the hunter-gatherers and the early farmers, said Thomas, who worked with researchers at Germany's Mainz University.

Humans arrived in Europe 45,000 years ago and replaced Neanderthals. From then on, European hunter-gatherers experienced enormous climate change, including the last Ice Age.

The hunter-gatherer lifestyle survived 2,000 years after the Ice Age and ended 11,000 years ago, but gradually was replaced by agriculture, without a genetic exchange between hunter-gatherers and farmers, Thomas said.