Social dynamics of ancient hunter-gatherers in France

PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES—The last hunter-gatherers of modern-day northwestern France avoided inbreeding, despite living in close proximity with limited mate choice, according to a study*. The interaction between human groups during the transition from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies in Europe is not well-understood. Mattias Jakobsson and colleagues sequenced the genomes of 10 individuals, including two children, from ancient human remains in the Brittany region of France. Radiocarbon dating indicated that the hunter-gatherers lived between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago and overlapped in time with the first farmers in the region, even though the genomic data suggests that these groups maintained distinct ancestries. The genomes of the individuals buried on the present-day islands of Téviec and Hoedic showed no signs of inbreeding, even though the last hunter-gatherers of the Atlantic coast were part of a small group. Analysis of the bones revealed that although seafood was an important part of the two groups’ diets, the individuals buried at Téviec consumed more land-based protein. Together, the findings suggest that late hunter-gathers in western Europe lived in social systems that promoted mating between—rather than within—their own groups. According to the authors, the integration of the genetic data with previous research yields fresh insights into the social and cultural changes that occurred during a pivotal moment in human history.


Article Source: PNAS news release.

*“Genomic ancestry and social dynamics of the last hunter-gatherers of Atlantic France,” by Luciana Simões, Rita Peyroteo-Stjerna et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 26-Feb-2024.



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