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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Evidence of a Cultural diffusion of agriculture in Southeast Europe

A recent paper by Battaglia et al, Y chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of Agriculture in Southeast Europe, attempts to measure the impact of Neolithic farmers from the Middle East on Southeastern Europe to determine if these farming technologies were spread to Europe more through cultural contact or through migrations of Near Eastern peoples into Europe. The neolithic expansion into europe is a complex process likely involving multiple migrations and cultural diffusion over a period of time starting around 9000BC. In this study, Y Chromosome data was collected from 16 regions of South East Europe. The findings suggest that Haplogroup J2b-M241 correlates with the Neolithic period, has a different migration and origin from J2a-M410 and that J2b-M241 may have been involved in the process of admixture with Mesolithic peoples, thus being among the first peoples to introduce agriculture to Euorpe.

Levels of J2a-M410 were very low through the areas studied with little correlation of subclades. J2b frequencies showed a spike in Albania at 14.5% and was found in Greece and the Czech republic at rates of around 4%. The findings of the authors suggest that Haplogroups I and E-V13 were representative of Mesolithic peoples already present in the region who adopted the farming technologies introduced by near eastern farming colonists. From SE Europe where this cultural contact took place, agriculture then spread through Europe crossing the Adriatic into Italy.

Although southeast europe shows considerable archaeological evidence of the Neolithic transition, our Y-Chromosome results provide biological evidence of complexity in the transition to farming in terms of the contrasting influences of pioneering agriculturalists and Mesolithic foragers.