Summary of paper for review purposes:
The roles of migration, admixture and acculturation in the European transition to farming have been debated for over 100 years. Genome-wide ancient DNA studies indicate predominantly Anatolian ancestry for continental Neolithic farmers, but also variable admixture with local Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Neolithic cultures first appear in Britain c. 6000 years ago (kBP), a millennium after they appear in adjacent areas of northwestern continental Europe. However, the pattern and process of the British Neolithic transition remains unclear. We assembled genome-wide data from six Mesolithic and 67 Neolithic individuals found in Britain, dating from 10.5-4.5 kBP, a dataset that includes 22 newly reported individuals and the first genomic data from British Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Our analyses reveals persistent genetic affinities between Mesolithic British and Western European hunter-gatherers over a period spanning Britain’s separation from continental Europe. We find overwhelming support for agriculture being introduced by incoming continental farmers, with small and geographically structured levels of additional hunter-gatherer introgression. We find genetic affinity between British and Iberian Neolithic populations indicating that British Neolithic people derived much of their ancestry from Anatolian farmers who originally followed the Mediterranean route of dispersal and likely entered Britain from northwestern mainland Europe.
Figure 2: PCA of modern and ancient West-Eurasians. British and additional ancient samples are projected onto the reference space computed on modern West-Eurasian
In summary, our results indicate that the progression of the Neolithic in Britain was unusual when compared to other previously studied European regions. Rather than reflecting the slow admixture processes that occurred between ANFs and local hunter-gatherer groups in areas of continental Europe, we infer a British Neolithic proceeding with little introgression from resident foragers – either during initial colonization phase, or throughout the Neolithic.
This may reflect the fact that farming arrived in Britain a couple of thousand years later than it did in Europe. The farming population who arrived in Britain may have mastered more of the technologies needed to thrive in northern and western Europe than the farmers who had first expanded into these areas. A large-scale seaborne movement of established Neolithic groups leading to the rapid establishment of the first agrarian and pastoral economies across Britain, provides a plausible scenario for the scale of genetic and cultural change in Britain.
Population Replacement in Early Neolithic Britain
Selina Brace, Yoan Diekmann, Thomas J. Booth, Zuzana Faltyskova, Nadin Rohland, Swapan Mallick, Matthew Ferry, Megan Michel, Jonas Oppenheimer, Nasreen Broomandkhoshbacht, Kristin Stewardson, Susan Walsh, Manfred Kayser, Rick Schulting, Oliver E Craig, Alison Sheridan, Mike Parker Pearson, Chris Stringer, David Reich, Mark G Thomas, Ian Barnes
bioRxiv 267443; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/267443
This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed.