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BEAN – Bridging the European and Anatolian Neolithic: Demography, Migration, and Lifestyle at the Advent of Civilization

Final Report Summary - BEAN (BEAN – Bridging the European and Anatolian Neolithic: Demography, Migration, and Lifestyle at the Advent of Civilization)

Publishable Summary:
BEAN: Bridging the European and Anatolian Neolithic
Demography, migration, and lifestyle at the advent of civilisation
The BEAN Initial Training Network provided state-of-the-art training to early-stage researchers in the scientific disciplines of anthropology, genomics, demic computer simulations and evolutionary modelling, biostatistics, demography, and prehistoric archaeology, as well as complementary skills in cultural heritage entrepreneurship, public outreach, and scientific publication. Training opportunities in the BEAN network were embedded within a multifaceted integrated research programme investigating one of the most complex topics in modern anthropology: the Neolithisation of Europe. BEAN focused on demographic questions surrounding the spread of the cultural, technological, and biological components of the Neolithic from western Anatolia and the Balkans to the rest of Europe.

The Neolithic Period
The term ‘Neolithic’ describes a novel human lifeway centred on crop and animal domestication and
the construction of permanent settlements with special-use buildings. The Neolithic period marks the advent of settled farming life in Europe and is a crucial period in the genetic and cultural history of modern Europeans. The transition from mobile foraging to sedentary farming first occurred around 11,000 years ago in the Near East with the cultivation of several edible grasses and legumes and the domestication of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs, and spread throughout southwest Asia, reaching Europe by 8,500 years ago.

Anthropology and Archaeology
The emergence of agriculture and sedentary life was accompanied by an explosive increase in population size and growth rate, a phenomenon known as the Neolithic Demographic Transition.
BEAN researchers in Belgrade and Paris investigated the biological correlates of the Transition using isotopic and morphological proxies for nutritional status and exertion patterns, and created a database-informed demographic reconstruction of the expansion of Neolithic settlements westward from the Levant to the Balkans. Neolithic communities participated in complex networks of economic and cultural exchange. BEAN projects in Istanbul and London used complementary approaches to model the relationship between ceramic technology and patterns of social interaction, and tracing the movement of raw material and resources to delineate ancient regional networks of communication, mobility, and exchange.

Demographic processes affect patterns of variation in both genetic and cultural traits. To study these patterns, BEAN researchers in Mainz and Dublin captured and sequenced ancient DNA from Mesolithic and Neolithic remains representing key populations in Europe’s demographic history. Mitochondrial, nuclear, and Y-chromosome data were used to infer past population movements and selection pressures, and to orient important demographic events and processes in time and space.

Computer Simulations and Modelling
BEAN projects in Geneva and London integrated cultural and genetic datasets into a robust
statistical framework to evaluate competing hypotheses of European population history. Our partners have developed computer programs which can incorporate diverse data streams into spatially-explicit models of the diffusion of Neolithic culture westward from Anatolia.

Research Program and Initial Results
BEAN researchers at JGU Mainz successfully developed and implemented novel protocols for the targeted sequencing of full mitochondrial human genomes, ancestry-informative neutral regions, and loci that are candidates for having been under recent (<10,000 years ago) natural selection. Researchers in Dublin augmented this data with a Y-chromosome capture for the re-sequencing of non-repetitive regions of the Y-chromosome of Mesolithic and Neolithic human skeletal remains. These results were incorporated into publications made available to the general public via the BioArxiv (Hofmanová et al. 2015. Early farmers from across Europe directly descended from Neolithic Aegeans. BioRxiv. doi: and published in high-impact journals (e.g. Bollongino et al. 2013. 2000 Years of Parallel Societies in Stone Age Central Europe. Science 342(6157):479-481; Martiniano R, et al. Genomic signals of migration and continuity in Britain before the Anglo-Saxons. Nat Commun. 2016 Jan 19;7:10326. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10326. PubMed PMID: 26783717; Jones ER, et al. Upper Palaeolithic genomes reveal deep roots of modern Eurasians. Nat Commun. 2015 Nov 16;6:8912. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9912. PubMed PMID: 26567969; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4660371).
BEAN researchers in London and Geneva have created new computer simulation methods to investigate prehistoric population dynamics and test for natural selection (e.g. Currat M, Silva NM. (2013) Investigating European genetic history through computer simulations. Human Heredity, vol. 76, no. 3-4, 142-153). Researchers in London have additionally developed models of cultural and genetic change across the Neolithic transition. These methods and models have been incorporated into a collaborative publication describing the movement of the Neolithic from Anatolia to Central Europe, the central question of the BEAN project (Hofmanová et al. 2015. Early farmers from across Europe directly descended from Neolithic Aegeans. BioRxiv. doi:
BEAN fellows in Paris, Istanbul, and London have used complementary approaches to model Neolthic expansion and trade networks using demographic (e.g. M. Brami, A. Zanotti. 2015. Modelling the initial expansion of the Neolithic out of Anatolia. Documenta Praheistorica 42) as well as artefactual evidence (e.g. Horejs, B., Milić, B., Ostmann, F., Thanheiser, U., Weninger, B., & Galik, A. (2015) The Aegean in the Early 7th Millennium BC: Maritime Networks and Colonization. Journal of World Prehistory 28: 289-330 (DOI 10.1007/s10963-015-9090-8). The BEAN Fellow in Belgrade has adduced additional isotopic and anthropological evidence supporting the hypothesis that the Neolithic Transition was accompanied by changes in activity patterns and diet, and has made the results of the analysis publically available as a video channel associated with the Bioarchaeology of the Danube Gorges conference (

The BEAN ITN’s research has demonstrated, using isotopic and aDNA evidence, that the transition to agriculture was complex, with hunter-gatherers and farmers co-existing side-by-side in some regions for millennia. The Hofmanova et al. paper additionally resolves many of the palaeogenetic questions surrounding the expansion of the Neolithic from Anatolia to central Europe. The novel laboratory and bioinformatics methods developed in this project, in addition to the ceramic and lithic databases created, and the demographic and genetic modelling and simulation approaches refined during the course of the BEAN ITN will provide a robust framework for future investigations into research surrounding the Neolithic transition. The BEAN ITN’s research has been disseminated in a number of high-impact publications, and the video archive created specifically for use in museum exhibitions on archaeological and anthropological topics, as well as in other educational venues, will be a valuable public resource.

BEAN is coordinated by:
Johannes Gutenberg-University
Institute of Anthropology
Anselm-Franz-von-Bentzel-Weg 7
D-55128 Mainz,Germany