Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Farming, human migration and cultural change in Europe

The prehistoric adoption of farming practices in outlying regions of Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic, European Russia and the Ukraine, was the result of cultural diffusion and not due to the migration of farmers from the Near East and Anatolia. New evidence shows that indigenous hunter-gatherers in central Europe were largely replaced or assimilated by incoming Near-Eastern farmers in the core region of south-east and Central Europe. However, hunter-gatherer populations survived in outlying regions and adopted some of the cultural practices from neighboring farming communities. The new research uses craniometric data from 30 Mesolithic and Neolithic populations as it has previously been shown that cranial measurements can be used as a reliable proxy for genetic information. The results show that while the initial transition to agriculture in central Europe was the result of migrating farmers from the Near-East and Anatolia, agricultural practices were adopted by indigenous hunter-gatherer populations in outlying regions of Europe. Therefore, instead of employing two competing and mutually exclusive models of biological versus cultural diffusion, a mosaic model of both biological and cultural diffusion is a more appropriate model for this demographic change across Europe as a whole.

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