People probably came with pots

By Razib Khan | October 10, 2013 1:48 pm

Update: Just watch this movie.

No time to write about it now, but check Science Magazine this afternoon (in a few hours from this posting) for a major paper on ancient mtDNA, and the striking correlation between changes in lineage frequencies and cultures that they discovered. Turns out that when you peel back the palimpsest it is much more complicated and surprising than we’d have thought. National Geographic, which funded the project, already has a post out on it:

What they found was that the shift in the frequency of DNA lineages closely matched the changes and appearances of new Central European cultures across time. In other words, the people who lived in Central Europe 7,000 years ago had different DNA lineages than those that lived there 5,000 years ago, and again different to those that lived 3,500 years ago. Central Europe was dynamic place during the Bronze age, and the genetic composition of the people that lived there demonstrates that there was nothing static about European prehistory.

Genographic Project Director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Spencer Wells expounds: “spanning a period from the dawn of farming during the Neolithic period through to the Bronze Age, the [genetic] data from the archaeological remains reveals successive waves of migration and population replacement- genetic ‘revolutions’ that combined to create the genetic patterns we see today.”

I hope this doesn’t lead to a new simplicity to replace the old one of no migration.

MORE ABOUT: People and pots
  • Ramone

    Saw this on Facebook and have to laugh because the FB post is definitely written in science jargon. Might wanna’ speak in more layman’s terms in your social media. Otherwise, are you just talking to scientists? Then there’s no need to be on Facebook!

  • michae sheffield

    Good use of the word palimpsest

  • Luis Aldamiz

    For when you write a longer comment on the actual study, please notice that the Bell Beaker data they’re using is actually the pooling of actual Bell Beaker (~70% H, ~10% JT, ~20% N(xR), n=8) and another group (Kromsdorf), which is contemporary with both BB and Corded Ware but does not actually have the Bell Beaker cultural identifiers as such (ill-defined group in cultural terms) and whose mtDNA genetic pool is completely different (40%U, 20% K, 20% JT and 20% N(xR), n=5).

    While pooling these two (and maybe also Unetice) makes some sense because of contemporariness and because they seem to explain better together the genesis of modern Central Europeans, it is also important to underline the differences between the two, because it indicates that this genesis was still at a very early stage and the various ancient populations were not yet amalgamated but strikingly different.

  • Guest

    Hoping for nuance in an argument directed at the general public is probably asking for too much from Spencer Wells.

  • Kara Eidsvik

    Am trying to watch the movie. The link isn’t working. Can you name it so that I can search it? Thanks


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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