Farmers may get slapped with a good ol' boy reputation in today’s society, but during the first agricultural revolution, they were the rock stars, a new study suggests.
As USA Today reports, “Farmers not only planted crops as they moved throughout the Fertile Crescent about 10,000 years ago, but they also took land and wives away from native hunters so thoroughly that most of today's European men are genetically linked to those farmers.”
A genetic study led by geneticist Patricia Balaresque of England’s University of Leicester was released on Tuesday in the journal PLoS Biology. The researchers studied modern European men’s genes to see if they could determine how the continent was settled.
Scholars have long debated whether ancient populations of farmers moved into and throughout the Fertile Crescent or if farming techniques were developed by native hunters and gatherers. In this study, the researchers looked at 840 men’s Y chromosomes for a gene currently found in 110 million European men, as well as many American men.
The USA Today story says, “’The incoming farming populations expand,’ says Jobling, a colleague of Balaresque. Rather than gene differences clustering around some areas and not appearing in others — to be expected if early farmers had traded technology instead of migrating — the pattern of gene differences depicts a smooth march of male farmers' genes across Europe.”
According to Rutgers University Physicist Morell Cohen, the male gene diversity analysis allows the new study’s authors to “conclude unequivocally” that male farmers spread throughout Europe, not just the new farming technologies and techniques.
Interestingly enough, only study of the male genes show this consistent signature. As a result, researchers believe these early farmers most likely intermarried with hunter-gatherer women who already lived in the various areas.
"Maybe back then, it was just sexier to be a farmer," Balaresque says in a commentary.
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• And catch an episode or two of In the Field with Farmer D.