Stonehenge DNA

Our world is shifting. Once upon a time we thought humans spread from Africa, eventually reached and spread through Europe, then settled down to several millennia of farming — punctuated by invasions and population movements in historic times that are more or less known. 

Well, we didn’t exactly think that, but if you didn’t take time to make a study of it you could be forgiven if that’s more or less the idea you had about human history. 

DNA testing is changing everything. One of the things that has changed is the idea of continuity in Britain from the Mesolithic to the present. It turns out there’s a break with the invasion of farming people in the Neolithic.

Although Britain was inhabited by groups of “western hunter-gatherers” when the farmers arrived in about 4,000BC, DNA shows that the two groups did not mix very much at all.

The British hunter-gatherers were almost completely replaced by the Neolithic farmers, apart from one group in western Scotland, where the Neolithic inhabitants had elevated local ancestry. This could have come down to the farmer groups simply having greater numbers.

“‘We don’t find any detectable evidence at all for the local British western hunter-gatherer ancestry in the Neolithic farmers after they arrive,’ said co-author Dr Tom Booth, a specialist in ancient DNA from the Natural History Museum in London.

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