Genetic analysis of Neolithic people from Mesopotamia shows blend of demographics

The toddler from Cay008's cranium. the Science Advances website (2022). Reference: 10.1126/sciadv.abo3609

The toddler from Cay008's cranium. the Science Advances website (2022). Reference: 10.1126/sciadv.abo3609

Working with one colleague from Austria and two from Sweden, a group of academics from several Turkish institutions has discovered evidence through DNA analysis of a mix of demographics in Neolithic people living in the Upper Tigris region of Mesopotamia. 

The team reveals in their article, which was published in the journal Science Advances, how they took tissue samples from the bones of persons who were interred at Ayönü Tepesi between 8500 and 7500 BCE.

Between the Tigress and Euphrates rivers, in what is now Turkey and Iran, was Upper Mesopotamia. The Neolithic Transition, when people started to switch from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one centered on agriculture, is thought to have been significantly influenced by the region, according to researchers. Numerous other cultural developments also occurred during this period.

For a long time, historians have pondered whether the change in Mesopotamia was the result of the efforts of the people who lived there, or if it was more of a melting pot where ideas arrived from many other locations. Two adult men, six adult women, two male children, and three female children were among the 13 persons who lived and died at that time and whose tissue was preserved through burial. The researchers used genetic analysis of their DNA to determine the answer to that question.

They discovered evidence that the people had mixed backgrounds—they had a three-way admixture of people from the South Levant, Central Anatolia, and Central Zagros—by comparing the samples via multidimensional scaling to the genomes of others from adjacent locations.

One of the women had Caucasus/Zagros ancestry, which made her an exception. This demonstrated that people from far further north and possibly other locations had moved into the area. Additionally, the toddler who had intentionally shaped their skull as well as intentionally cauterized his or her head was discovered by the researchers to have undergone medical procedures.

The researchers hypothesize that during the Neolithic era, the Upper Tigris region of Mesopotamia was probably a bustling hub with people coming and departing, bringing with them both goods and culture.

Reference: 10.1126/sciadv.abo3609


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