Craniometric data support a mosaic model of demic and cultural Neolithic diffusion to outlying regions of Europe

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The extent to which the transition to agriculture in Europe was the result of biological (demic) diffusion from the Near East or the adoption of farming practices by indigenous hunter–gatherers is subject to continuing debate. Thus far, archaeological study and the analysis of modern and ancient European DNA have yielded inconclusive results regarding these hypotheses. Here we test these ideas using an extensive craniometric dataset representing 30 hunter–gatherer and farming populations. Pairwise population craniometric distance was compared with temporally controlled geographical models representing evolutionary hypotheses of biological and cultural transmission. The results show that, following the physical dispersal of Near Eastern/Anatolian farmers into central Europe, two biological lineages were established with limited gene flow between them. Farming communities spread across Europe, while hunter–gatherer communities located in outlying geographical regions adopted some cultural elements from the farmers. Therefore, the transition to farming in Europe did not involve the complete replacement of indigenous hunter–gatherer populations despite significant gene flow from the Southwest Asia. This study suggests that a mosaic process of dispersal of farmers and their ideas was operating in outlying regions of Europe, thereby reconciling previously conflicting results obtained from genetic and archaeological studies.
Jean M comments:
Their results are remarkably neat, showing two clearly distinct lineages, with comparatively little inter-mixture, confirming the picture from the archaeology of the LBK, for example, which seems to indicate that farmers and foragers kept to their own zones.

This helps to explain why the presumed Neolithic Y-DNA haplogroups G, E and J do not dominate Europe today, and decline in frequency the further one moves from the Mediterranean. The farming pioneers in Europe, though initially successful, eventually encountered problems which led to population crashes. Then after the Neolithic, Europe had two great bursts of migration, both from fringe regions where farming had been adopted by foragers. One came from the European steppe in the Copper and Bronze Ages. The other was the spread of their Germanic and Slavic descendants in the Migration Period.


sykes.1 said...

Isn't this the sort of study that Gould condemned in "The Mismeasure of Man"?

Anonymous said...

Gould isn't exactly the gold standard of scientific thought, so I'm not particularly upset about whether or not he would approve of this study...

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Occidental said...

Gould isn't exactly the gold standard of scientific thought

That's putting it mildly. He was an egalitarian ideologue-propagandist who, along with his fellow Boasian Jews, deliberately subverted anthropology into a useless "humanitarian" field.

If you want reliable texts on comparative anatomy, you have to go back to the early 20th century. Luckily thanks to Google Books, Archive dot org and the like, this is increasingly becoming possible.

n/a said...


I believe Gould's interest in craniometry was limited to attempting to dispute racial differences in cranial capacity by claiming that biased white experimenters a century ago packed white skulls they were measuring more densely than black skulls, which would have no bearing on this study.

Owing at least in part to motivations related to Gould's, studies of this sort did fall out of fashion in archaeology and anthropology during the 20th century. But with the ancient DNA evidence supporting major Neolithic and later population churn, Coon and some of the other old-school physical anthropologists look rather prescient.

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