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  • Ali Metin Büyükkarakaya

Neolithic and Ancient DNA in Anatolia

Güncelleme tarihi: 17 Oca 2021

In parallel with technological progress, we can say that both genetic complexity and chronological depth have increased gradually in the research carried out at the genome level in the last five years (Skoglund & Mathieson 2018; Stoneking 2017). The studies conducted at the genome level have made it possible to examine the genetic proximity of populations to today's societies and to determine the relationship between human groups living in ancient times with their contemporaries. At the same time, ancestral relationships dating back to ancient times (Paleolithic) can be investigated, and relationships between close species or subspecies (such as Neanderthals, Humans, and Denisovans) can be revealed (Skoglund and Mathieson 2018). Such an approach makes it possible to solve the problems in ancient human societies where biological proximity and sociocultural similarity cannot be clearly determined. Studies on the European Neolithic Period and the Bronze Age are good examples of this case. Lazaridis and a group of researchers (2014) studied the genome data of a farmer from 7000 years ago in Germany and eight hunter-gatherers from 8000 years ago in Luxembourg and Sweden, and compared the findings with the data of 2345 individuals belonging to 203 living communities today. As a result, it has been discovered that present-day Europeans come from three different populations, which are Western European hunter-gatherers, Paleolithic Northern Eurasians, and Early European Farmers with roots related to Anatolia (Skoglund and Mathieson 2018). Prehistoric population movements in Europe are not limited to the Neolithic Period. Genome-level studies on the Bronze Age have yielded surprising results. For example, Haak and a group of researchers (2015) obtained genomic data of 69 Europeans from 8000-3000 years ago. A significant genetic difference has been identified between Western and Eastern European communities in this date range. At the beginning of the Neolithic Period (8-7 thousand years ago), close farmer groups emerged in Germany, Hungary, and Spain, and these groups seem to be different from local hunter-gatherers (Haak et al. 2015). The results of the study showed that Europeans 4500 years ago had the traces of the genome of an Asian breeding community called Yamnaya, which has shown that Bronze Age Europe has changed dramatically with a huge immigration wave (or waves) from Asia (Skoglund and Mathieson 2018). On the other hand, the deep impact of the Anatolian Peninsula on the West Eurasian gene pool has been proven many times, in terms of both archaeological and genome data. However, from an archaeological, anthropological, and biological point of view, we can say that the effect of human mobility and migration in archaeological periods is not one-sided. Hofmanova and a group of researchers (2016) conducted a significant study on the role of Anatolia in migration. The researchers stated that the migration movements from Anatolia to Europe, farmers in the North Aegean continue into and throughout Europe. They showed the common genetic structure of these farmers with Germany, Spain, and Hungary at the genome level, and found that the ancestral contribution of the Anatolian North Aegean communities to Germany and Hungarian successors was 39-53% (Hofmanova et. al. 2016). In a different study, Omrak and a group of researchers (2016) from the Archaeological Research Laboratory of Stockholm University examined genome data in a sample dating back 6700 years, taken from the Kumtepe Mound (which is located very close to Troy) in northwest Anatolia. Chronologically, this period comes just after the spread in the Neolithic Period. Studies have indicated that that the genetic structure of the sample individual was within the European Neolithic gene pool and resembled today's Sardinians, Near Easterners, and Caucasians (Omrak et. al. 2016).

The abovementioned studies include the two that we published in 2016 and 2017, which we carried out jointly with the METU Archaeogenomics Laboratory researchers and published by producing genome data belonging to Anatolia. In a study we conducted in 2016, we were able to generate genome data from human remains obtained from the archeological settlements of Tepecik-Çiftlik (Niğde) and Boncuklu Mound (Konya) from Central Anatolia. Our study showed that Boncuklu Mound (Pottery Neolithic Period) is genetically more homogeneous, while Tepecik-Çiftlik (Pottery Neolithic Period) has a more heterogeneous structure (Kılınç et. al. 2016). From this standpoint, we determined that Boncuklu Mound is somewhat related to the Anatolian Epipalaeolithic communities, whereas the population of Tepecik-Çiftlik is extroverted and more interactive with the near surrounding populations. The data we have obtained provides critical evidence that the origin of Anatolia's genetic contribution to European Early Neolithic farmers was Central Anatolia. As a matter of fact, in another genome study that we published last year, we developed new perspectives on the spread of Anatolian Neolithic Age (especially Aegean Region) farmers to the West, which should also be tested with archaeological theories. We have investigated the subject mainly by considering Neolithic period communities such as Tepecik-Çiftlik, Boncuklu Mound, and Barçın Mound (Bursa), within the scope of this study. Analysis of ancient DNA data demonstrated that Anatolian communities clustered together and in a different place from the Neolithic Period communities in Southern Levant and Iran. Besides, the other results we obtained have revealed that the communities of the Western Anatolian and North Aegean Neolithic Period may be the products of many migrations to the West, including immigrants from Central Anatolia, as well as local Epipaleolithic communities that adopt farming in the Aegean Region (Kılınç et al. 2017).

*Reference publication (translated from Turkish): Büyükkarakaya, A.M. & Yorulmaz, S. (2019). Biyoarkeoloji ve Antik DNA. Arkhe Dergisi Sayı 7.


Haak, W., Lazaridis, I., Patterson, N., Rohland, N., Mallick, S., Llamas, B., … Reich, D. (2015). Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe. Nature, 522(7555), 207–211.

Hofmanová, Z., Kreutzer, S., Hellenthal, G., Sell, C., Diekmann, Y., Díez-del-Molino, D., … Burger, J. (2016). Early farmers from across Europe directly descended from Neolithic Aegeans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(25), 6886–6891.

Kılınç, G. M., Omrak, A., Özer, F., Günther, T., Büyükkarakaya, A. M., Bıçakçı, E., … Götherström, A. (2016). The Demographic Development of the First Farmers in Anatolia. Current Biology, 26(19), 2659–2666.

Kılınç, G. M., Koptekin, D., Atakuman, Ç., Sümer, A. P., Dönertaş, H. M., Yaka, R., … Somel, M. (2017). Archaeogenomic analysis of the first steps of Neolithization in Anatolia and the Aegean. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284(1867), 20172064.

Lazaridis, I., Patterson, N., Mittnik, A., Renaud, G., Mallick, S., Kirsanow, K., ... & Berger, B. (2014). Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans. Nature, 513(7518), 409-413.

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