CRC lecture by Johannes Krause (Max-PIanck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte, Jena)


Date(s) - 16/11/2020
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


The Journey of Our Genes: Migration and Adaptation in Prehistory


by Johannes Krause,
Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte, Jena

Archaeogenetics deals with the extraction and analysis of genetic material from archaeological finds, such as bones and teeth. Genetic analyses of prehistoric skeletons can be used to reconstruct events from human history that often remain hidden for archaeologists and historians. A particular question is the relationship between migration and epochal transitions in prehistoric times, which can only be investigated to a limited extent on the basis of grave goods and other archaeological artefacts. For many years, it was discussed whether the transition from foragers to early farmers at the beginning of the Neolithic period in Europe, which included Ötzi the “iceman”, was linked to a large scale migration event from the Near East or whether it was a cultural transfer of innovative techniques and domesticated animals and plants. A similar question arose in relation to the transition between Stone Age and Bronze Age. To solve these questions, thousands of prehistoric individuals, including the iceman, were studied genome-wide by archaeogeneticists, to shed light on changes in the genetic composition of early prehistoric Europeans in the context of epochal change. Evidence for two massive migratory events were found, which left their traces in all modern Western Eurasians. Our results make clear that numerous migratory movements, both into Europe and out of Europe, have characterized the settlement history of this continent since the Ice Age. The signature of different genetic mixing events can be found in all people today. Certain phenotypic features such as skin, hair and eye color as well as other biological adaptations can now be traced back genetically for thousands years.