They survived the Ice Age 26,000 years ago

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They survived the ice age 26,000 years ago

Reconstruction of the appearance of a hunter-gatherer associated with the Gravettian culture (32,000 to 24,000 years ago), inspired by archaeological finds in Italy.

To survive the last ice age that enveloped the European continent 26,000 years ago, its inhabitants took refuge in the Iberian Peninsula, shows a study based on the analysis of the genes of hundreds of our very distant ancestors.

It details with unprecedented precision the migrations of hunter-gatherers who populated the continent and the influence of climate change between 35,000 and 5,000 years ago. years.

The authors of the study published Wednesday in Nature analyzed the genomes of the remains of more than 350 prehistoric hunter-gatherers from central Asia to western Europe.

Male skull and stone tools discovered in Germany dated to 7000 years ago. The population of this individual lived side by side with the first European farmers without mixing.

First discovery: the Gravettian culture, dominant on the European continent from there 31,000 to 23,000 years ago, was the prerogative of two groups of people, and not just one, as some scientists postulated.

The Gravettian refers to the prehistoric culture characterized by mass production of elaborate stone tools. It succeeds the Aurignacian culture, which coincided with the extension of the presence of Homo sapiens on the European continent.

Did the cultural homogeneity of the Gravettian result from communication networks, cultural exchanges between different populations or an extension of the same populations?

The authors of the international study, mainly European and Chinese scientists, concluded that there were two very distinct groups, in central and southern Europe on the one hand and in southern Europe. x27;Western and South-Western Europe on the other.

How could a culture and its tools be transmitted so quickly to populations from different backgrounds? asks Isabelle Crevecœur, paleoanthropologist at the University of Bordeaux and co-author of the study. A crucial question that fascinates researchers, who have not yet found the key to the mystery.

The West and South-West group, called Fournol, after an archaeological site in the Lot (south-west of France), will play a key role in the settlement of the region. Europa by surviving the Last Glacial Maximum (LMG), a major cooling episode that spanned from 26,000 to 19,000 years ago.

Most of Europe was no longer populated because it was frozen, Ludovic Orlando, a paleoanthropologist at Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, told AFP. an article accompanying the study in Nature.

Populations of the Fournol group find refuge in southwestern Europe, especially the Iberian Peninsula. We find their genetic heritage much later, in the populations of hunter-gatherers associated with the Magdalenian culture (which ends at -14,000 years ago), well after the end of the glacial episode.


The Italian peninsula, on the other hand, failed to protect the populations of central and southern Europe from the deadly cold. The study establishes that they do not seem to have left any descendants.

In their place, just at the end of the Ice Age 19,000 years ago, people probably from the Balkans began to populate present-day Italy. They were to play a key role in the settlement of Europe thanks to a remarkable climatic episode that occurred 14,000 years ago.

At that time , the climate has warmed rapidly and considerably, forests are spreading on the European continent, explains Johannes Krause, archaeogeneticist at Max Planck, also author of the study, quoted in a press release from the x27;University of Tübingen.

People have thus been encouraged to leave their glacial refuges in the Iberian and Italian peninsulas and move north, he adds.< /p>

They mix there, before a 6000-year, unexplained break and then a new mixing. Which could be linked to climatic effects or the arrival of new populations, the first farmers, from Anatolia, around 8000 years ago, according to Isabelle Crevecœur.

With a final wave of settlement, originating in the steppes of eastern Europe, 5000 years ago, the continent was then roughly in place genetically.

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