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Genomic Diversity and Admixture Differs for Stone-Age Scandinavian Foragers and Farmers

Science  16 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6185, pp. 747-750
DOI: 10.1126/science.1253448

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Hunters and Farmers

The Neolithic period in Europe saw the transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to farming. Previous genetic analyses have suggested that hunter-gatherers were replaced by immigrant farmers. Skoglund et al. (p. 747, published online 24 April) sequenced one Mesolithic and nine Neolithic Swedish individuals to examine the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers. Substantial genetic differentiation was observed between hunter-gatherers and farmers: There was lower genetic diversity within the hunter-gatherers and gene flow from the hunter-gatherers into the farmers but not vice versa.

Abstract

Prehistoric population structure associated with the transition to an agricultural lifestyle in Europe remains a contentious idea. Population-genomic data from 11 Scandinavian Stone Age human remains suggest that hunter-gatherers had lower genetic diversity than that of farmers. Despite their close geographical proximity, the genetic differentiation between the two Stone Age groups was greater than that observed among extant European populations. Additionally, the Scandinavian Neolithic farmers exhibited a greater degree of hunter-gatherer–related admixture than that of the Tyrolean Iceman, who also originated from a farming context. In contrast, Scandinavian hunter-gatherers displayed no significant evidence of introgression from farmers. Our findings suggest that Stone Age foraging groups were historically in low numbers, likely owing to oscillating living conditions or restricted carrying capacity, and that they were partially incorporated into expanding farming groups.

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