1st Blumenbach Lecture

The genetic history of early Europeans: Migration and adaptation in prehistory

Johannes Krause
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany

Ancient DNA can reveal pre-historical events that are difficult to discern through the study of archaeological remains and modern genetic variation alone. Our research team analyzed more than 200 ancient human genomes spanning the last 10,000 years of Western Eurasian pre-history. We find direct evidence for two major genetic turnover events at the beginning and at the end of the Neolithic time period in Europe. Our data provide strong support of a major migration of early farmers spreading from Anatolia starting around 9000 years ago bringing agriculture and domestic animals to Europe. Following their arrival, early farmers genetically admix with indigenous Europeans in the course of the coming 3000 years. At the end of the Neolithic period, around 5000 years ago, we find the first genetic evidence for another major migration event of people from the pontic steppe, north of the black sea, into the heartland of Europe. The newcomers practice pastoralism, are highly mobile, due to the widespread use of horses, wheels and wagons and they may be responsible for the first spread of plague among human populations in Eurasia. We find that all modern European populations today are a genetic mixture of steppe pastoralist, early farmers and indigenous European hunter-gatherers in varying proportions. We furthermore find that due to genetic mixture and local biological adaptation there are major changes in human phenotypes such as eye color, skin color and the ability to digest milk sugar through the course of the last 10,000 years.


Dr. Susanne Hummel
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach-Institut für Zoologie und Anthropologie
Abteilung Historische Anthropologie und Humanökologie
Bürgerstr. 50
37073 Göttingen