Researchers use ancient DNA to map 11,700 years of human history

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By examining newly sequenced ancient DNA from across the Southern Arc region, the researchers say they have revealed a complex demographic history from the earliest agricultural cultures to post-medieval times.

The researchers used the ancient DNA to create a detailed genomic history of the “cradle of Western civilization”.

The region is known as the “South Arc”, which stretches across Southeast Europe and Western Asia.

The researchers said the ancient history of this region has been told through archaeological data, as well as thousands of years of historical accounts and texts. But innovations in sequencing ancient DNA have provided a new source of historical information.

In three separate studies, researchers used ancient DNA from the remains of 777 humans to construct a detailed genomics of the Southern Arc from the Neolithic (10,000 BCE) to the Ottoman period (about 1,700 CE).

The team suggests that previous reliance on modern population history, ancient writings and art provided an inaccurate picture of early Indo-European cultures.

The first study focused on the Chalcolithic and the Bronze Age, around 5000 to 1000 BCE. Researchers say there were large ‘genetic exchanges’ between the Eurasian steppe and the southern arc, which provides new insights into the formation of Yamnaya steppe pastoralists and the origin of the Indo-European language .

The second study looked at ancient DNA from pre-Pottery Neolithic Mesopotamia from the epicenter of the region’s “Neolithic Revolution,” when humans began growing plants and raising animals.

The results suggest that the transition between the Pre-Pottery and Pottery Neolithic phases of Neolithic Anatolia was associated with two distinct migration pulses from the heart of the Fertile Crescent.

The third study looked at the ancient and medieval history of southern Europe and western Asia, to explain the demographics and geographical origins of groups like the Mycenaeans, Urartians and Romans.

In a perspective article, Benjamin Arbuckle and Zoe Schwandt of the University of North Carolina said the studies represent “an important step for ancient genomics research, providing a rich data set and diverse observations” that will lead to new ones. interpretations of human history from western Eurasia.

Arbuckle and Schwandt said it was an “astonishing set of data” but pointed to the limitations of the interpretations, suggesting that many accounts in the studies reflect a Eurocentric worldview.

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