DNA Analysis Shows Modern Europeans Descended From Belgians

First Posted: May 05, 2016 05:40 AM EDT

DNA from the last ice age revealed that all Europeans, at one time, were descendants of early humans living in Belgium. Genome analysis also showed that these distant ancestors went through series of evolutionary changes during the Ice Age and a few thousand years after the frozen era.

According to, researchers have concluded that natural selection has played a significant role in making Europeans' Neanderthal ancestry less obvious as time pass. For the study, scientists have analyzed genomes from 51 people who existed between 45,000 years to 7,000 years ago. This includes some remarkable fossilized discoveries from years gone by.

This allowed researchers to gather information on the people's skin color, eye color, and how different European populations were related to each other. The patterns of migration was also revealed and suggested that these movements were a little bit complicated, probably as complex as modern migrations patterns are. It was during that time that the researchers found that about 37,000 to 14,000 years ago, different European populations had descended from a founder group from what is currently known as Belgium.

As temperature began to warm in Europe about 19,000 years ago, continents were freed from widespread ice sheets. As the frozen cover disappeared, human populations from modern-day Spain migrated up north. About 5,000 years after that time, a second group of people started to travel from southeastern Europe into northern and western regions of the continent. These migrants from Greece and Turkey displaced the earlier population, Tech Times reported.

The last major ice age peaked between 35,000 and 19,000 years before the modern day came to an end about 12,000 years ago. During the peak of this period, ice cover reached as far as south as northern France. "The ability to obtain genome-scale data from ancient bones is a new technology that's only been around for the last five or six years. It's a new scientific instrument that makes it possible to look at things that have not been looked at before," said David Reich of the Harvard Medical School.

Ancient DNA usually contains a distinct error where a segment of cytosine is replaced by uracil. This change is not often seen in modern chains of genetic codes. Researchers used this to their advantage by examining only DNA that showed this error. This allowed investigators to analyze samples of nearly-pure ancient genetic code.

Modern humans first entered Europe about 45,000 years before the modern age. This migration spelled the end of Neanderthals, which used to inhabit the continent. All of the ancient Europeans examined in this study showed lineages that traced back to a population that lived 37,000 years ago in a region that would later be known as Belgium. This group was later displaced, and a new population arrived in Europe 14,000 years ago, traveling from the east.

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