Science

Was Minoan Civilization Actually European?

By Pierre Dumont , May 14, 2013 05:58 PM EDT

New evidence suggests that Minoan civilization was actually European.

"We now know that the founders of the first advanced European civilization were European," study co-author George Stamatoyannopoulos, a human geneticist at the University of Washington, said. "They were very similar to Neolithic Europeans and very similar to present day Cretans(residents of the Mediterranean island of Crete)."

It was originally believed that Minoan civilization derived from Egypt. This theory gained momentum through the discovery of the palace of Knossos over 100 years ago. British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans believed that the art within the palace's similarity to Egyptian art was no coincidence.

But new DNA samples found in Cretan caves suggest that early farmers who settled Crete eventually flourished into the Minoan civilization. The Minoan civilization thrived from 2,700 B.C. to 1,420 B.C.

"It was a period of excitement around the Mediterranean," Stamatoyannopoulos said.

Accordingly, the artistic similarity to Egypt probably derived from cultural exchange.

In coming to their conclusion, the researchers examined tooth and bone samples from more than 100 individuals who once lived in Crete before the Minoan civilization flourished. They found that, out of 21 mitochondrial markers, six belonged to Minoans and 15 were common to modern, Neolithic European and Bronze Age peoples. Accordingly, the findings suggest that the population was more closely linked to Europe than to Africans.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

DNA has become an increasingly useful tool in terms of historic understanding and recently contributed to revelations regarding the Justinianic Plague.

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