The fossil remains found in the cave of Bacho Kiro in Bulgaria they confirmed a few months ago the presence of Homo sapiens in Europe about 45,000 years ago. Until now, the bones represented the oldest and most direct evidence of the arrival of modern humans on the continent.
Since then, the scientific community has tried to find out who these were first european settlers and their relationships with other human groups such as Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), which until now were not entirely clear. New research, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, now sheds more information on these early Europeans.
Bacho Kiro individuals are more closely related to human groups that contributed their ancestry to East Asians than to West Eurasians.
“Unlike what might be expected of ancient individuals in Europe, the Bacho Kiro individuals are more closely related to human groups that contributed their ancestry to the East Asians than to the western Eurasians ”, reveals to SINC Mateja hajdinjak, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig in Germany and lead author of the study with Spanish participation.
Paleoanthropologists consider that about 50,000 years ago these Homo sapiens spread from the Middle East, and later throughout Eurasia, from Eastern Europe to Mongolia. These human groups could later be replaced in western Eurasia, but they continued to live and contribute to the ancestry of people in eastern Eurasia.
An example of this is that, according to the genome analyzes carried out, one of the fossils found in the Bulgarian cave was of an individual about 35,000 years old that belonged to a group that was genetically different from the first inhabitants of the cave. “This means that the previous genetic component was largely replaced in western Eurasia,” adds the researcher.
An intimate relationship with Neanderthals
The first inhabitants of Bacho Kiro lived in a time when Neanderthals were still around. So the researchers scanned their genomes for Neanderthal DNA. They discovered that they had the highest levels of Neanderthal origin than almost any other primitive human, except for an individual from about 40,000 years ago found in the Pestera cu Oase cave in Romania.
Zlatý kůň had longer stretches of Neanderthal DNA than the 45,000-year-old Ust’-Ishim found in Siberia, and so far considered the oldest modern human genome
DNA analysis thus shows that all individuals in the Bulgarian cave carried between 3% and 3.8% of Neanderthal DNA, meaning that they had Neanderthal ancestors six or seven generations ago. “This suggests that the mix between these early humans in Europe and Neanderthals was more common than previously thought,” clarifies Hajdinjak..
The close and continuing relationship with Neanderthals is also demonstrated in the genome of another primitive european about 45,000 years old, called Zlatý kůň and found in the Czech Republic. According to the reconstruction of this genome, probably the oldest European to date, his Neanderthal ancestry was between 2 and 3%, similar to all other non-Africans.
The study, also published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, shows that Zlatý kůň had longer stretches of Neanderthal DNA than the 45,000-year-old individual named Ust’-Ishim found in Siberia, and so far considered the oldest modern human genome . This would make it the oldest in Europe, a few hundred years older than Ust’-Ishim.
“We found no evidence of an additional mixture [con neandertales] shortly before this human lived. This could mean that Zlatý kůň’s ancestors moved to central Europe without further interaction with them ”, he told SINC Kay Prüfer, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, and first author of the second paper that has analyzed samples from his skull.
Without a trace in today’s Europeans
Regarding his relationship with modern humans today, “all we can say about the genome is that Zlatý kůň left no trace of his ancestry among modern people. His people died, ”says Prüfer. The analyzes thus suggest that this European was part of a population that formed before the populations that gave rise to today’s Europeans and Asians split apart.
All we can say about the genome is that Zlatý kůň left no trace of his ancestry among modern people. His people died
“It is quite intriguing that the first modern humans in Europe were ultimately unsuccessful! As with Ust’-Ishim and the oldest European skull so far from Oase 1, Zlatý kůň does not show genetic continuity with modern humans who lived in Europe after 40,000 years ago, ”he says. Johannes Krause, lead author of the study and director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
Zlatý kůň thus formed his own non-African lineage, but it did not contribute to any particular current human group, but it became extinct at some point in the past. What could have happened so that it does not last to this day?
“We speculate that a great volcanic eruption which occurred in Italy about 39,000 years ago may partly explain why both the Zlatý kůň and Neanderthal lineages disappeared. The eruption had a great impact on the climate ”, stresses to SINC Prüfer.
The eruption in the Italian region of Campania Negatively affecting the climate of the Northern Hemisphere could reduce the chances of survival of early modern humans and Neanderthals in much of Ice Age Europe. Despite knowing more and more the history and slope Of these early modern humans who expanded out of Africa, much remains to be discovered about them, scientists say.
“We still don’t really know who the first modern human Europeans were to venture into an unknown land. But thanks to the analysis of their genomes, we discovered a part of our own history that has been lost in time ”, concludes Prüfer.
Mateja Hajdinjak et al. “Initial Upper Palaeolithic humans in Europe had recent Neanderthal ancestry” Nature Ecology & Evolution
Kay Prüfer et al. “A genome sequence from a modern human skull over 45,000 years old from Zlatý kůň in Czechia” Nature Ecology & Evolution
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