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Modern European Family Tree Has Stone Age Roots

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Family tree of much of modern European population has Stone Age roots.

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Analysis of mitochondrial DNA from 39 ancient skeletons from central Germany has shown that several distinct waves of people swept across ancient Europe. Anthropologists noted that today’s western European population is genetically dominated by a mid-Stone Age (Neolithic) population conventionally dated 4,000 to 4,500 years ago, though contributions from Early Neolithic, Late Neolithic, and later Bronze Age groups.1

Researchers report the correlation of genomic markers with dated skeletons has allowed them to “reconstruct the recent evolutionary history” of European people.2


Skeletons such as that of the “Beaker folk,” late Neolithic people named for their waisted pottery, belong to the same genomic grouping as much of the native population of Spain and Portugal. Image credit:

Anthropologists had thought that Europe, after the demise of Neanderthals and infiltration by the first early modern humans (conventionally dated about 30,000 to 40,000 years ago), was populated by only few or even just one migratory event. But findings suggest successive waves swept western Europe, though the reasons remain completely unknown. Each group left its genetic footprint in the modern population. Furthermore, those genetically distinct groups correspond to archaeological changes, showing that cultural changes in Europe were not a matter of changes among people themselves but rather the influx or upsurgence of different people groups.

Researchers were gratified to note that the changes in DNA haplogroups do correlate with archaeological differences such as different sorts of pottery and artifacts suggesting different lifestyles, explains Spencer Wells, the National Geographic representative involved with the study. “In this study we show that changes in the European archaeological record are accompanied by genetic changes, suggesting that cultural shifts were accompanied by the migration of people and their DNA.” Archaeologists have long debated whether cultural changes—such as being hunter-gatherers versus being farmers—represent an influx of new people or a change in the characteristics of existing populations. Many anthropologists view farmers as more evolutionarily advanced.

We can follow over 4,000 years of prehistory, from the earliest farmers through the early Bronze Age to modern times.

“This is the first high-resolution genetic record of these lineages through time, and it is fascinating that we can directly observe both human DNA evolving in ‘real-time,’ and the dramatic population changes that have taken place in Europe,” says joint lead author Wolfgang Haak. “We can follow over 4,000 years of prehistory, from the earliest farmers through the early Bronze Age to modern times.”3

“The record of this maternally inherited [mitochondrial] genetic group, called Haplogroup H,” explains another of the joint lead authors, Paul Brotherton, “shows that the first farmers in Central Europe resulted from a wholesale cultural and genetic input via migration, beginning in Turkey and the Near East where farming originated and arriving in Germany around 7,500 years ago.”4

“This population moves in around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, but where it came from remains a mystery, as we can't see anything like it in the areas surrounding Europe,” says Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), which did the work. “The genetics show that something around that point caused the genetic signatures of previous populations to disappear. However, we don't know what happened or why, and [the mid-Neolithic] has not been previously identified as [a time] of major change.” Researchers also do not know where this Neolithic population that leaves its genetic marker in over 40% of western Europeans5came from. “About [4,500] years ago, you start seeing a diversity and composition of genetic signatures that are beginning to look like modern [Central] Europe,” Cooper says. “This composition is then modified by subsequent cultures moving in, but it's the first point at which you see something like the modern European genetic makeup in place.”

The Neolithic “linear B” pottery culture (LBK) is believed to be predominantly farmers, named for their characteristic pottery decorations. The previous inhabitants seemed to be a hunter-gatherer population, and their genetic signatures differ.

Yet the genetic turnover in western Europe’s population wasn’t finished yet. Mitochondrial DNA also suggests that this “linear B” pottery (LBK) population eventually diminished to be replaced by yet another wave of immigrants sweeping across the continent. “The extent or nature of this genetic turnover are not clear, and we don't know how widespread it is,” Cooper says. “If this turnover were widespread, it could have been prompted by climate change or disease. All we know is that the descendants of the LBK farmers disappeared from Central Europe about 4,500 years ago, clearing the way for the rise of populations from elsewhere, with their own unique H signatures.”

The study, published in Nature Communications, also suggested the mitochondrial DNA mutation rate was 45% higher than previously thought.6

The dates ascribed to these ancient archaeological periods are based on a variety of information including many unverifiable assumptions.

The dates ascribed to these ancient archaeological periods are based on a variety of information including many unverifiable assumptions. The same can be said for the dates assigned to the skeletons examined in the study. Thus the mitochondrial mutation rate—which would have to be known in order to make “molecular clock” predictions—is itself based on the assumptions used to date the geological layers in which skeletons are found.

Many readers have written to Answers in Genesis this week asking whether the “4,500 year” date for the dramatic turnover in the genetic make-up of western Europe’s population is related to the global Flood. Most regular readers are aware that the biblical Flood of Noah’s time occurred approximately 4,300 years ago; therefore they wonder if the decimation of the previous populations was due to the Flood.

There are several reasons why this is not true. First of all, the dates assigned to the genetic turnover are based on unverifiable assumptions, whereas the biblical Flood dates are based on biblical history (such as the interlinked dates from genealogies and corresponding events) correlated with documented dates from secular history (such as the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem). Secondly, the previous populations (Neanderthal and earliest modern humans) are also dated in accord with unverifiable assumptions and evolutionary presuppositions about an African cradle of humanity. Thirdly, the Flood was global and wouldn’t have merely reduced the genetic significance of pre-Flood populations. The Flood would have left absolutely no remnants of pre-Flood archaeological artifacts in addition to totally destroying all people not on the Ark. Therefore, no “Early Neo-lithic” artifacts are from pre-Flood populations. Rather, like all archaeological artifacts, they represent the footprints of population groups that descended from the people dispersed from the Tower of Babel.

All people alive today not only descended from Adam and Eve but also from Noah’s family. After God confused languages at the Tower of Babel, groups of people, initially subsisting on the skills available in their groups, spread out to re-populate the world. Read more about these various people, including both groups that became extinct and those that survived, in the articles listed below. Furthermore, all the people whose genomes are being analyzed here, whenever they lived, are human beings. They were not evolving. They were migrating.

This evidence that repeated waves of culturally distinct and genetically distinct people swept over western Europe in the post-Flood years is quite consistent with biblical history. Yet it is important when examining scientific reports to avoid assuming dates based on unverifiable assumptions are reliable because they happen to coincide with biblical dates. In this case, an understanding of the catastrophic nature of the global Flood—wiping out all traces of humanity’s marks on the earth—is the key to discernment.

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