Modern Europeans may have descended from Belgium in Ice Age

Advertisement

Modern Europeans may have descended from Belgium in Ice AgeResearchers have been able to figure out in greater detail the genetic features of Europeans in the Ice Age, concluding that all Europeans are related to the early humans who may have lived in Belgium some 35,000 years ago. It has also been concluded that natural selection has played a role in making Europeans’ Neanderthal ancestry less prominent over time.

For their study, scientists analyzed genomes from 51 people who existed between 45,000 years and 7,000 years ago, including some notable fossilized discoveries from years gone by. This allowed them to glean information on the people’s skin color, their eye color, and how various European populations were related to each other. Patterns of migration were also revealed, suggesting that these movements were quite intricate, possibly as complex as modern migration patterns are. And it was there where the researchers found that about 37,000 to 14,000 years ago, different European populations had descended from a founder group from what is currently known as Belgium.

The first group to emerge from the founder group was known as the Aurignacians, who existed about 35,000 years ago, but were displaced by the Gravettians some 34,000 to 26,000 years ago. Both groups had different genetic features, but descended from the same founder population.

As for the Aurignacian genetic features, they returned about 15,000 years later (or about 19,000 years ago) in the Magdalenians, who are represented by the fossilized “Red Lady of El Miron Cave” found in northern Spain. It is these people that are believed to have repopulated Europe after the Ice Age ended. Finally, the Villabruna cluster emerged about 14,000 years ago as the genetic features of Europeans and Middle Easterners became more closely related to each other, hinting at an expansion from the southeast part of the continent.

“We see multiple, huge movements of people displacing previous ones,” said study co-author David Reich of the Harvard Medical School in a press release. “During this first four-fifths of modern human history in Europe, history is just as complicated as it is during the last fifth that we know so much more about.”

Reich noted that the prehistoric humans in the study had 3 to 6 percent Neanderthal DNA, a large share compared to the 2 percent share of today’s modern humans. “Neanderthal DNA is slightly toxic to modern humans’ and this study provides evidence that natural selection is removing Neanderthal ancestry,” he said.