Ancient DNA Revolution

We are witnessing a revolution in ancient DNA. The first results came from inference from modern DNA and seem to have given results which are somewhat dubious. But recently changes in cost and technology has built up a new and expanding database of Ancient DNA which is shaking prehistory.

This article gives a good summary.

One result is that the Beaker folk have been restored to a genuine folk movement after a couple of decades of PC cultural diffusion of a pottery style. But more than that the Beakers Folk are not only an intrusion from abroad But they replaced 90% of the Neolithic genome. The mechanism by which this happened is not yet established. 

So the great Henge projects were created by the first farmers who were largely descended from the Hunter-Gatherers.  Around 2,400 B.C. the beaker folk came over. This was after the Sarsen phase of Stonehenge.  They seem to have adopted neolithic use of henges but not the desire or ability to build huge new ones.

The DNA report is published here:

Salon IFA 402 wrote:

'Ancient DNA Continues to Revolutionise the Past

Around 4,500 years ago migrants entered Britain from the European continent, probably travelling from the coasts of France, Belgium or Germany, and initiated a substantial population replacement. The impact is still felt today, with only 10% of the preceding Neolithic genome remaining. The copper age in the UK truly marked the beginning of a new era.

We knew this from a Harvard University research paper published online last year ahead of peer review (‘Pots on the March’, Salon 388). Nature published the article on 21 February, allowing its authors to talk to the press. Among those who did was Mike Parker Pearson FSA (UCL). He told BBC News that the Neolithic British community had monument building ‘absolutely as its core rationale’, while the incoming makers of Beaker pottery were ‘not prepared to collaborate on enormous labour-mobilising projects; their society [was] more de-centralised.’

The context for this is Stonehenge, where our current dating suggests the main structure was built at the very end of the neolithic and shortly before the arrival of Beaker migrants – though smaller megaliths continued to be re-arranged during the Beaker era. There was no ‘violent invasion’, however. The Beaker people, said Parker Pearson, were ‘moving in very small groups or individually’. Steven Shennan FSA (also UCL) noted that ‘around 2500 BC the population [in Britain] is very low and that's precisely when the Beaker population seems to come in.’

In a press release from the University of Cambridge, Christopher Evans FSA (Executive Director of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit) said, ‘this study has been a tremendous project to be involved with. The results are truly ground-breaking and suggest that, with the influx of Continental communities, Britain’s prehistoric story needs to be rewritten in a much more dynamic manner.’ ‘Different teams had different key samples,’ said co-senior author Kristian Kristiansen FSA (University of Gothenburg), ‘and we decided to put together our resources to make possible a study that was more definitive than any of us could have achieved alone.’ The Cambridge Archaeological Unit has supplied many further samples for another Harvard study, of a thousand British Iron Age individuals.'


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