Prehistoric Middle East Migrants Brought Farming to Europe

We have migrants from Western Asia to thank for farming in Europe, and with it, the rise of Western civilization, Phys Org reports.

New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the teeth of prehistoric hunter-gatherers and farmers in Central Europe shows that colonizers from the Near East brought agricultural technology to Europe. The research is based on isotopic signatures of strontium in tooth enamel from people who died around 6,200 B.C. Strontium is found in rocks all around the world, enters a person's diet around the time they're born and creates a permanent mark in their teeth. This strontium signature shows the geology of the person's birthplace, allowing scientists to identify prehistoric immigrants from their teeth.

The research was conducted by T. Douglas Price of University of Wisconsin-Madison and Dusan Boric of Cardiff University in the Danube Gorges in Romania and Serbia.

"The evidence from the Danube Gorges shows clearly that new people came in bringing farming and replaced the earlier Mesolithic hunter-gatherers," said Price. The Danube Gorges were heavily forested in the Neolithic era, and rich in fish (catfish, sturgeon) and game (red deer, wild boar). This richness attracted Neolithic communities as they expanded and migrated through the region.

The research could end the debate amongst archaeologists about how farming spread to Europe. The results suggest that colonizers brought the technology to the region, rather than farming methods diffusing between social networks. It also offers a new route that farming took out of Asia. "It suggests another route across the Black Sea or up the east coast of Bulgaria to the Danube for farmers moving into Europe. This contrasts with movement by sea across the Mediterranean or Aegean, which is the standard picture."

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