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Europeans drawn from three ancient ‘tribes’

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The modern European gene pool was formed when three ancient populations mixed within the last 7,000 years, Nature journal reports.

Blue-eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East.

But another, mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent.

The findings are based on analysis of genomes from nine ancient Europeans.

Agriculture originated in the Near East – in modern Syria, Iraq and Israel – before expanding into Europe around 7,500 years ago.

Multiple lines of evidence suggested this new way of life was spread by a wave of migrants, who interbred with the indigenous European hunter-gatherers they encountered on the way.

But assumptions about European origins were based largely on the genetic patterns of living people. The science of analysing genomic DNA from ancient bones has put some of the prevailing theories to the test, throwing up a few surprises.

Genomic DNA contains the biochemical instructions for building a human, and resides within the nuclei of our cells.

In the new paper, Prof David Reich from the Harvard Medical School and colleagues studied the genomes of seven hunter-gatherers from Scandinavia, one hunter whose remains were found in a cave in Luxembourg and an early farmer from Stuttgart, Germany.

The hunters arrived in Europe thousands of years before the advent of agriculture, hunkered down in southern refuges during the Ice Age and then expanded during a period called the Mesolithic, after the ice sheets had retreated from central and northern Europe.

Their genetic profile is not a good match for any modern group of people, suggesting they were caught up in the farming wave of advance.

However, their genes live on in modern Europeans, to a greater extent in the north-east than in the south.

The early farmer genome showed a completely different pattern, however. Her genetic profile was a good match for modern people in Sardinia, and was rather different from the indigenous hunters.

But, puzzlingly, while the early farmers share genetic similarities with Near Eastern people at a global level, they are significantly different in other ways. Prof Reich suggests that more recent migrations in the farmers’ “homeland” may have diluted their genetic signal in that region today.

Prof Reich explained: “The only way we’ll be able to prove this is by getting ancient DNA samples along the potential trail from the Near East to Europe… and seeing if they genetically match these predictions or if they’re different.

“Maybe they’re different – that would be extremely interesting.”

Source: BBCNews Read and see more

How old are false teeth?

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Grave find may be Western Europe’s earliest false tooth

The iron pin may once have held a false tooth, but it’s impossible to know for sure

Archaeologists have identified what could be remains of the earliest false tooth found in Western Europe.

The dental implant comes from the richly-furnished timber burial chamber of an Iron Age woman that was excavated in Le Chene, northern France.

The woman, who was between 20 and 30 years old when she died, had an iron pin in place of an upper incisor tooth.

It is possible the pin once held a false tooth made from either wood or bone, which could have rotted away.

The findings have been published in the scholarly journal Antiquity.

The grave was one of four adult female burials in an enclosure dating to the third century BC that were discovered during the construction of a housing development in the Champagne-Ardenne region.

The burials, which contained a rich array of grave goods, show all the hallmarks of the Celtic La Tene culture, which flourished across Central and Western Europe at the time.

“The skeleton was very badly preserved,” Guillaume Seguin, who excavated the young woman’s skeleton in 2009, told BBC News.

“But the teeth were in an anatomical position, with the molars, pre-molars, canines and incisors. Then there was this piece of metal. My first reaction was: what is this?”

The teeth were bagged and taken away for analysis. Mr Seguin later realised that the woman had 31 rather than 32 teeth, and photos taken at the excavation site show the iron pin in the place where the missing tooth would have been.

This photo shows the teeth in position during excavation. The iron pin is visible on the left

“The fact that it has the same dimensions and shape as the teeth means that the best hypothesis is that it was a dental prosthesis – or at least, an attempt at one,” said Mr Seguin, from the Bordeaux-based archaeology firm Archeosphere.

There are reasons to doubt whether it was successful, says Mr Seguin. Firstly, the propensity for iron to corrode inside the body makes it unsuitable for use as a dental implant; titanium is the material of choice today for modern versions.

Secondly, the absence of sterile conditions during this period mean the pin could have caused an abscess, followed by an infection that could potentially have ended the individual’s life.

However, the poor preservation of the remains means it is impossible to say whether the implant played any role in the woman’s death.

While the find may be the earliest dental implant known from Western Europe, prosthetic teeth dating back 5,500 years have been found in Egypt and the Near East.

Source: BBC News – Read more

European bison (Bison bonasus)

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Return of the European Bison

A European bison (Bison bonasus) checks his new surroundings after being relocated to Armenis, Tarcu mountains, southwestern Romania. Photograph: Costas Dumitrescu

The crowd surges forward against the barrier, cameraphones are held aloft, children are hoisted on to shoulders. The celebrities, the first European bison about to set their hooves in this remote Romanian valley in the southern Carpathian mountains for two centuries, wait in the shadows of a huge trailer.

The forest, already home to bears and packs of wolves, is the final destination for 17 of Europe’s largest land mammal, some of whom have been travelling hitched to lorries for five days from as far as Sweden. It will be their first time out of captivity.

Video (see the link below)

A herd of bison are gathered from across Europe for release into the wild in Romania. The animals were shot with a tranquiliser gun to immobilise them, then loaded onto a truck to drive to Romania. In all 17 bison were collected from wildlife parks and breeding centres across Europe. Video: Kristjan Jung

The release of the animals into the wild is one of the biggest in Europe since reintroductions began in the 1950s, establishing wild populations in Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, and Kryygzstan. More will be reintroduced each year, with an aim of having 500 in the mountains eventually.

Bison bonasus was driven to extinction in the wild across Europe in 1927 after decades of decline from hunting and habitat loss. But it has become that rare endangered species: a conservation success story.

There are now thousands in the wild, all descended from the 54 individuals in captivity when the last wild one was killed in Poland’s Bialowieza forest.

Despite the increase in numbers, the European bison is still rarer than other high profile species, such as the black rhino, even with the reintroductions. There are over 5,000 European bison, with about 3,200 in the wild.

Frans Schepers, managing director of the Netherlands-based charity behind the release last weekend, Rewilding Europe, said: “It has a big symbolic value, bringing back animals. I’ve done that a lot in Africa, with rhinos and elephants, but in Europe it is very rare. Releasing animals, giving them space, is a sign of hope, it shows that if we choose, we can help wildlife come back.”

The hulking, hairy beasts, some standing nearly two metres tall and and weighing as much as 1,000kg, have not been seen in this part of Romania for generations. “But it has never quite disappeared from our minds and souls,” says Adrian Hagatis, project manager at WWF Romania.

A tussle ensues as the animals are let out in their new range at Armenis, Tarcu mountains, Romania. Photograph: Bogdan Cristel/Reuters

One of the founding legends of Moldovia, in Romania’s east, centres around a Romanian nobleman, Dragoș, killing a bison, an act which some say was once a prerequisite for joining the country’s army. The herbivore is a symbol of national pride, and several nearby places still carry bison-related names.

But for Romania, the second poorest country in the EU after Bulgaria, bringing back bison is not just of cultural importance, it is also an economic imperative.

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Bison, Vodka and Poland’s Primeval Forest

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Poland boasts the last primeval, virginal forest in Europe, which covers 1,500 square kilometres on the eastern side of the country bordering with Belarus.

Source: BBC News

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