Mystery Population Conquered Europe Following Last Ice Age
DNA analysis from bones dating back around 14,500 years shows that Europe underwent a major population upheaval following the last Ice Age.
Europe’s population changed dramatically following the last Ice Age as the hunter-gatherers who had dominated the continent throughout the freezing period were replaced by a new dominant force.
However, the origin of the newly discovered population remains a mystery, according to the scientists who conducted DNA analysis on ancient teeth and fossils from the period.
The researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History said that it was an “unknown chapter in human history” where a new group moved in and replaced the old.
The most logical explanation is that humans migrated from warmer climates down south.
Johannes Krause from the institute said: “The main hypothesis would be glacial refugia in south-eastern Europe.”
By analysing DNA taken from 55 ancient Europeans, which dated back between 7,000 and 35,000 years, the team were able to chart the changes of the European population.
Mr Krause said: “This is the first glimpse at Pleistocene (the period during the Ice Age) population dynamics in Europe.
“Little has been done on this older material, mostly due to lower abundance of material and lesser preservation due to age.”
Iosif Lazaridis at the Harvard Medical School in Boston added: “The population turnover after 14,500 years ago was completely unexpected.
“It seems that the hunter-gatherers of Europe braved the worst of the ice age during the last glacial maximum but were then replaced when the ice age had begun to subside.”
Adam Powell, senior author, said: “Our model suggests that during this period of climatic upheaval, the descendants of the hunter-gatherers who survived through the Last Glacial Maximum were largely replaced by a population from another source.”