This post was originally posted on the San Pedro Institute site in November 2014 and is being reposted here.
By Dr. Rob L., San Pedro Institute
The origins of modern Europeans remains a matter of debate and speculation but this past week (Nov 2014) a scientific team published some new DNA findings that may shed light on European origins. Their findings were published in the noted journal Science.
The team successfully sequenced DNA from Kostenki Man found in Western Russia and it was revealed that he lived between 38,700–36,200 years ago. This is one of the oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans from Europe ever found. The fossil is known as K14 and it was noted that he shares a close ancestry with the 24,000 year old Mal’ta Boy from central Siberia, European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, some modern western Siberians, and many modern Europeans but not east Asians. Further, the fossil genome shows evidence of shared ancestry with all Eurasians including later Neolithic farmers.
From the genome sequencing the team has also concluded that Western Eurasians and Eastern Asians diverged from each other more than 36, 200 years ago and that the genomic structure of modern Europeans dates back to the Upper Paleolithic and derives from a meta-population that sometimes stretched from Europe to Central Asia.
So what does this all mean in simple terms?
The findings strongly suggest that there was an intermixing across Europe over the past 50,000 years, simply. DNA from the fossil was from a shinbone found in western Russia. Also found at the site in Kostenki, Russia were sophisticated tool kits that included prismatic blades, bone, antlers, ivory and shell ornaments, along with the fossilized remains of both humans and animals. A skull found at the Kostenki site dates back to 30,000 years and was reconstructed several years ago by Professor M.M. Gerasimov.
DNA from the shinbone indicates that Kostenki Man was highly similar to modern Europeans and it also strongly suggests that Europe’s past was NOT marked by waves of migration in which people met, mingled, and clashed but instead indicates that people arrived in the region either in a single migration OR in a continuous flow for a long time.
The team was led by an evolutionary biologist from the University of Copenhagen named Eske Willersley. He says that it appears that there was a single genetically similar population that was sprawled across the continent from Russia to the Middle East and into Northern Europe rather than separate populations moving into each others territory and interbreeding with each other. He calls this population a “meta-population” which is a group distinct and separate from the population already in the area yet regularly mixing with that population and inbreeding with them.
In short, what this genetic study of Kostenki Man reveals is that Europe has been a sort of melting pot for tens of thousands of years and, thus, the regions human history becomes more complex and complicated.
The notion that there was one big migration into Europe is likely NOT the case at all. Rather, there appears to have been many migrations and those migrations were a constant stream rather than one huge migration.