Farming in the DNA

Archaeology shows that farming spread across Europe from the Middle East. For Europeans, farming started in the Fertile Crescent in the Levant, Turkey and Iraq around 8-9,000 BC. It spread into SE Europe around 6,500 BC and across the continent over the next couple of thousand years.
The Fertile Crescent at maximum defined extent. Image: Nafsadh / Wikipedia.

It’s possible to track farming moving, because settlements become more permanent and the pattern of artefacts change from debris from hunting and gathering toward more agricultural activity. The puzzle has been how did farming move? Did people move in the territory and colonise it, or did people take the idea from their neighbours, so the idea spread more than the people?

There’s a paper published by Nature this week, Genome-wide patterns of selection in 230 ancient Eurasians, that covers the latest research, looking at the DNA of people living between the Neolithic, where the first farmers appear in Europe (6500 BC) and the Iron Age (300 BC for the latest DNA sample).

If you find it a little taxing to follow there is some help. Carl Zimmer has a good story in the New York Times and Harvard Medical School have a summary of the story on YouTube.

There’s also coverage from the BBC. The Farmer DNA story is the first in this week’s Inside Science.

tip of the hat to Sarah Irons for spotting this.