- New research carried out one of the biggest ever studies of ancient genomes
- It found that beaker people forced prehistoric Neolithic farmers out of Britain
- DNA analyses found that Britain underwent a 90 per cent shift in its genetic make-up when the beaker folk arrived
One of the biggest ever studies of ancient genomes has found that a Bronze Age ‘beaker culture’ invaded Britain around 4,000 years ago.
The immigrant group, named after the famous bell-shaped pots they carried, likely forced out native Neolithic farmers.
These ancient British farmers were famed for leaving behind massive rock relics, including Stonehenge.
THE BEAKER CULTURE MYSTERY
Beaker folk lived about 4,500 years ago in the temperate zones of Europe.
They received their name from their distinctive bell-shaped beakers, decorated in horizontal zones by finely toothed stamps.
The decorated pots are almost ubiquitous across Europe, and could have been used as drinking vessels or ceremonious urns.
Believed to be originally from Spain, the Beaker folk soon spread into central and western Europe in their search for metals.
But the sheer variety of beaker artefacts across Europe has made the pottery difficult to define as coming from one distinctive culture.
The new study suggests the beaker culture did not always pass from a single migrating entity.
DNA samples from beaker folk in Iberia and Central Europe were found to be genetically distinct.
To me, that’s definitely surprising,’ Dr Pontus Skoglund, a population geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the study, told Nature News.
‘The people who built Stonehenge probably didn’t contribute any ancestry to later people, or if they did, it was very little.’
Around 4,500 years ago bell-shaped pottery became popular across much of prehistoric Europe.
The Bronze Age trend has been debated by archaeologists for over a century.
Some argue that it was simply a fashion trend shared by several distinct cultural groups.
But other suggest that an immense migration of ‘beaker folk’ spread across the continent.
The new ancient genome research suggests that both theories are true.
The study, led by researchers at Harvard Medical School, analysed the DNA of 170 ancient Europeans.
They compared this DNA to the genomes of hundreds of other modern and prehistoric Europeans.
Ancient skeletons found in the Iberian peninsula were found to share little genetic connection with bones found in central Europe.
By HARRY PETTIT FOR MAILONLINE
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