A New DNA Analysis Of Skeletons Buried In France Over 8,000 Years Ago Revealed That The Last Hunter-Gatherer Groups In Europe Used Sophisticated Societal Strategies To Avoid Inbreeding

Evaldas - - illustrative purposes only

After performing DNA analysis of skeletons buried in France over 8,000 years ago, researchers found that the last hunter-gatherer groups in Europe managed to avoid inbreeding through sophisticated societal strategies.

It marks the first time that the genomes of hunter-gatherers who occupied the area near new Neolithic farming communities have been examined.

The study involved testing the genomes of ten people who lived between 6350 and 4810 B.C. Most of the individuals that the researchers analyzed were located at two coastal archaeological sites in northern France called Téviec and Hoedic.

These sites contain many well-preserved human skeletons that date back to the time when Western Europe was shifting from foraging to farming and animal husbandry. Some were excavated in Champigny, which is in northeastern France.

The “Neolithic transition” took place around 4900 B.C. in the Brittany region of France. As a result, technology, diet, settlement patterns, and burial practices all experienced major changes. Hunter-gatherer groups were replaced by farming communities. Previous evidence shows that members of the hunter-gatherer groups broke off from their communities and mated with farmers.

When researchers examined the genomes of the people from Téviec and Hoedic, they discovered that all of them were genetically similar to other hunter-gatherer groups in Western Europe but that they did not mate with the first farming communities in northwestern France.

And, although the hunter-gatherer groups were small, the individuals buried together did not have “close biological kin relationships.” The biologically related pairs that the research team did find happened to be third-degree relatives, such as cousin, half-uncle, and great-grandparent relationships.

“We know that there were distinct social units—with different dietary habits—and a pattern of groups emerges that was probably part of a strategy to avoid inbreeding,” said Luciana Simões, the lead author of the study and a geneticist and researcher from the Department of Organismal Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden.

The analysis of genomes has helped shed light on human culture at a pivotal point in history. Prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups are often associated with crudeness, simplicity, and a lack of civility. However, their ability to avoid inbreeding required complex social strategies and boundaries.

Evaldas – – illustrative purposes only

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