July 17, 2012

From the earliest modern humans to the onset of farming (45,000-4,500 BP)

This is a very exciting new project led by Ron Pinhasi. Together with the BEAN Project it seems that we are about to get a wealth of new data on many of the topics that are of great interest to readers of the blog.

It does seem that there is a cutoff data of 4,500BP for the scope of the project, which may be a little unfortunate if I'm right about the interesting stuff that was taking place place in Europe during the Bronze Age. But, still, getting plenty of new Y-chromosome, mtDNA, autosomal, and craniometric data for the 40 thousand years or so before that will in no doubt inform debates about more recent events as well.

From the earliest modern humans to the onset of farming (45,000-4,500 BP) January 2011-December 2014
This project which is led by Ron Pinhasi and is carried out in collaboration with leading European scientists, investigates the evolution and nature of major prehistoric processes which are key to our understanding of what happened in European prehistory: the origins and spread of modern humans during the Late Pleistocene, their survival during the last Ice Age, post-glacial expansions, the emergence of the first agricultural societies and the decline and eventual disappearance of most hunter-gatherer societies in Europe.

The focus is on the application of state of the art methods in genetics, archaeological sciences and anthropology which allow our team to address for the first time these major processes in sufficient depth and resolution and to yield new knowledge about the interface between human biology, climate , culture and life style. 
The colonisation of Europe by anatomically modern humans (AMHs) ca. 45,000 years before present (BP) and the transition to farming ca. 8,000 BP are two major events in human prehistory. Both events involved certain cultural and biological adaptations, technological innovations, and behavioural plasticity which are unique to our species. 
The reconstruction of these processes and the causality between them has so far remained elusive due to technological, methodological and logistical complexities.
Major developments in our understanding of the anthropology of the Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic, and advances in ancient DNA (aDNA) technology and chronometric methods now allow us to assess in sufficient resolution the interface between these evolutionary processes, and changes in human culture and behaviour. 
The project investigates the complex interface between the morphological, genetic, behavioural, and cultural factors that shaped the population history of European AMHs.  
The approach taken include (a) the collection of bioarchaeological, aDNA, stable isotope (for the analysis of ancient diet) and radiometric data on >700 skeletons from key sites/phases across Eurasia, and (b) the application of existing and novel aDNA, bioarchaeological and simulation methodologies.  
This research will yield results that transform our current understanding of major demographic and evolutionary processes and will place Europe at the forefront of anthropological, biological, and genetic research. 

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