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Two groups spread early agriculture

Fertile Crescent cultures diverged to take farming east and west

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2:27pm, July 14, 2016
Iranian archaeology site

FOUNDING FARMERS  A bone fragment from a 7,000-year-old farmer was discovered in this cave in the Zagros region of Iran. His DNA and the DNA of three other individuals from a second Iranian site revealed that two different groups were involved in early farming.

The cradle of agricultural civilization was culturally diverse.

Two societies lived side-by-side 10,000 years ago in the rich Near Eastern valleys of the Fertile Crescent, where humans first learned to farm, a new study finds. Over time, one group expanded west, carrying agriculture into Europe. The other spread east, taking their traditions into South Asia, researchers report online July 14 in Science.

“We thought the people of the Fertile Crescent were one group genetically and culturally, but in fact they were probably two or more,” says paleogeneticist Joachim Burger of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, who led the new study. It’s time to rethink the textbook idea that modern Europeans and South Asians descend from a single Stone Age people, he says.

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