The genetic profiles of three Neolithic hunter-gatherers and one farmer who lived in the same region of modern-day Sweden about 5,000 years ago were quite different - a fact that could help resolve a decades-old battle among archaeologists over the origins of European agriculture, said study leader Mattias Jakobsson, a population geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden.
The hunter-gatherers, from the island of Gotland, bore a distinct genetic resemblance to people alive today in Europe’s extreme north, said Jakobsson, who reported his findings in Friday’s edition of the journal Science. The farmer, excavated from a large stone burial structure in the mainland parish of Gokhem, about 250 miles away, had DNA more like that of modern people in southern Europe.
"People have known for some time that agriculture spread from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and northward and westward," Jakobsson said. "But it’s been difficult to determine if people migrated and brought farming with them, or if local hunter-gatherers changed their practices."
The study joins a growing body of work, assembled over the last decade, that aims to settle lingering debates over early human history by examining ancient DNA.
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