Early DNA shows two distinct populations in Britain after the last Ice Age

Early DNA shows two distinct populations in Britain after the last Ice Age
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An artistic redesign of the double helix of DNA. Researchers in Britain have identified two distinct groups of people living in post-glacial Britain. File photo of Miroslaw Miras/Pixabay

October 25 (UPI) — Scientists have sequenced the oldest human DNA discovered in Britain and uncovered two unique populations that lived in Britain after the last Ice Age.

A specimen discovered about 14,000 years ago in Gough’s Cave in Somerset, England, was compared to a sample about 1,000 years later discovered at Kendrick’s Cave, Wales.

“We knew from our previous work, including the study of Cheddar Man, that western hunter-gatherers were in Britain around 10,500 years ago, but we didn’t know when they arrived in Britain and if that was the only population that was present said Selina Brace, a principal investigator at the Natural History Museum in the UK who studies ancient DNA.

By examining the remains found in Gough’s Cave, researchers were able to determine that humans were living in Britain 300 years earlier than scientists previously thought, meaning they were there before Britain began to warm up after the last Ice Age.

Genetic studies of the two samples revealed that they came from two different genetic groups, meaning there were at least two wildly different populations of people living in Britain within a relatively short period of time.

Artifacts discovered from the two populations indicate very different cultural practices.

“The evidence from the human remains found in Kendrick’s Cave suggests that the cave was used as a burial ground by its inhabitants,” said Silvia Bello, a researcher at the Natural History Museum specializing in the evolution of human behavior specialized.

In contrast, bello said “The evidence at Gough’s Cave points to a highly developed culture of slaughtering and carving human remains.”

It was also revealed that these early inhabitants used parts from animals thought to have been extinct in Britain at the time, including a spearhead made from mammoth ivory and a baton made from reindeer antlers.

According to Chris Stringer, a research director in human evolution at the Natural History Museum, “This raises several interesting questions: Did they bring these artifacts from a colder place? Or was Britain even more complicated and still had mammoths and reindeer surviving in the highlands? ”

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