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Keywords:

  • Neolithic Europe;
  • ancient DNA;
  • population genetics

Abstract

The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture in Europe is associated with demographic changes that may have shifted the human gene pool of the region as a result of an influx of Neolithic farmers from the Near East. However, the genetic composition of populations after the earliest Neolithic, when a diverse mosaic of societies that had been fully engaged in agriculture for some time appeared in central Europe, is poorly known. At this period during the Late Neolithic (ca. 2,800–2,000 BC), regionally distinctive burial patterns associated with two different cultural groups emerge, Bell Beaker and Corded Ware, and may reflect differences in how these societies were organized. Ancient DNA analyses of human remains from the Late Neolithic Bell Beaker site of Kromsdorf, Germany showed distinct mitochondrial haplotypes for six individuals, which were classified under the haplogroups I1, K1, T1, U2, U5, and W5, and two males were identified as belonging to the Y haplogroup R1b. In contrast to other Late Neolithic societies in Europe emphasizing maintenance of biological relatedness in mortuary contexts, the diversity of maternal haplotypes evident at Kromsdorf suggests that burial practices of Bell Beaker communities operated outside of social norms based on shared maternal lineages. Furthermore, our data, along with those from previous studies, indicate that modern U5-lineages may have received little, if any, contribution from the Mesolithic or Neolithic mitochondrial gene pool. Am J Phys Anthropol 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.