Ice Age Europe

An artist’s impression of one of the Ice Age modern humans analyzed in this study. (Image credit: Stefano Ricci)

Migration has been playing a role in European population dynamics since before the last Ice Age, according to what researchers believe is the most comprehensive genetic analysis of Upper Paleolithic Europeans to date. The team found that all the individuals between ~37,000 and ~14,000 years ago descended from a single founding population, which forms part of the ancestry of present-day Europeans. However, a branch of the population was displaced across a broad region, and reappeared in southwest Europe at the height of the last Ice Age, about 19,000 years ago. Over this time, the researchers found neanderthal DNA decreased from between three and six per cent to the less than two per cent seen in modern humans. Additionally, the researchers found genetic components related to present-day Near Easterners, which became widespread in Europe approximately 14,000 years ago.


Qiaomei Fu, Cosimo Posth, Mateja Hajdinjak, Martin Petr, Swapan Mallick, Daniel Fernandes, Anja Furtwängler, Wolfgang Haak, Matthias Meyer, Alissa Mittnik, Birgit Nickel, Alexander Peltzer, Nadin Rohland, Viviane Slon, Sahra Talamo, Iosif Lazaridis, Mark Lipson, Iain Mathieson, Stephan Schiffels, Pontus Skoglund, Anatoly P. Derevianko, Nikolai Drozdov, Vyacheslav Slavinsky, Alexander Tsybankov, Renata Grifoni Cremonesi et al.

Corresponding author:

David Reich

Canadian Contributor:

Michael P. Richards, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia

Original paper published on May 2, 2016 in Nature.