"The Neolithisation, that is the transition from a hunter-gatherer form of life into farming, began transforming Europe around 10,000 BP. In current Denmark, an area central to our understanding of this process, the Mesolithic Ertebølle Culture maintained a hunter-gatherer lifestyle until replaced by the Neolithic farming practices of the Funnel Beaker Culture around 6000 BP. However, it is has been intensively debated for more than a century whether this cultural transition was facilitated by diffusion of ideas, or by a population replacement, where migrating farmers claimed the land of hunter-gatherers. In one of the most ambitious DNA sequencing efforts ever undertaken on ancient remains, this project aims to characterise the Neolithisation. Complete mitochondrial genomes and thousands of informative sites in the nuclear genome (SNPs) will be profiled from at least 60 individuals, covering the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Denmark. This will result in a high-resolution, genome-wide survey of one of the most important and enigmatic events in human history. Importantly, sampling many individuals from a restricted geographic area provides a tight and powerful analytical framework in which to monitor micro-evolutionary shifts in the ancient human gene pool. By profiling functional SNPs (related to, for example, hair colour and lactose tolerance), physical traits in the population as a consequence of (possible) replacement can also be identified. Lastly, these genomic data will be analysed and interpreted in the context of stable isotopic profiles, 14C dates and tooth-wear analyses to generate a multi-facetted image of the Neolithisation. In addition to contributing with new information on our shared ancestral history as Europeans, this project will showcase the prolific scientific interactions between archaeologists and molecular biologists taking place these days, and ensure that Europe maintains its current position at the global forefront of aDNA research."
Fields of science
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