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Study: Europe's first farmers invaded

Adelaide, Australia -- An international team led by DNA experts in Australia says it has resolved the longstanding question of who introduced farming to Europe about 8,000 years ago.

A detailed genetic study of one of the first farming communities in Europe, in central Germany, reveals marked similarities with populations living in the Ancient Near East -- modern-day Turkey, Iraq and other countries -- rather than those from Europe, a release from Australia's University of Adelaide says.

"We have finally resolved the question of who the first farmers in Europe were -- invaders with revolutionary new ideas, rather than populations of Stone Age hunter-gatherers who already existed in the area," says Adelaide's Wolfgang Haak, a researcher at the university's Australian Center for Ancient DNA.

The DNA used in this study came from a complete graveyard of Early Neolithic farmers unearthed at the town of Derenburg in Saxony-Anhalt, central Germany, the researchers said.

"This overturns current thinking, which accepts that the first European farming populations were constructed largely from existing populations of hunter-gatherers, who had either rapidly learned to farm or interbred with the invaders," Professor Alan Cooper, the project leader, said.

The study was published in the online peer-reviewed science journal PLoS Biology.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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