September 29, 2009

Scandinavians’ genealogy studied

A team of Swedish, Danish and British researchers says it used DNA to determine today's Scandinavians are descended from Stone Age immigrants.

The researchers said their findings that involve both genetics and archaeology contradict the theory that Scandinavians are descended from the people who came to Scandinavia at the conclusion of the last ice age.

The hunter-gatherers who inhabited Scandinavia more than 4,000 years ago had a different gene pool than ours, said Uppsala University Assistant Professor Anders Gotherstrom, who led the project with University of Copenhagen Professor Eske Willerslev.

The scientists said they used DNA from Stone Age remains to investigate whether the practices of cultivating crops and keeping livestock were spread by immigrants or represented innovations on the part of hunter-gatherers.

Obtaining reliable results from DNA from such ancient human remains involves very complicated work, said Uppsala University researcher Helena Malmstrom, who conducted the initial DNA sequencings of Stone Age material.

Our findings show today's Scandinavians are not the direct descendants of the hunter-gatherers who lived in the region during the Stone Age, said Petra Molnar at the Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory at Stockholm University. This entails the conclusion that some form of migration to Scandinavia took place, probably at the onset of the agricultural Stone Age. The extent of this migration is as of yet impossible to determine.

The study appears in the journal Current Biology.