DNA Evidence Uncovers Possible Builders of Stonehenge
A study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution describes a possible origin of the mysterious builders of Stonehenge. Researchers compared the DNA from the remains of Neolithic humans found across Britain to those of the humans in Europe alive during the same period, and discovered that the builders were predecessors of populations from Anatolia, which is located in modern day Turkey. One thousand years after arriving in Britain, these peoples constructed Stonehenge at around 3000 BC.
Before Stonehenge’s construction, Europe accomodated a small group of nomadic hunter gatherers. Research shows that the group split up into an early farming group, which followed the Danube river to Central Europe, and another group which moved across the Mediterranean. Through examination of the DNA of early British farmers, it was discovered that they are closely related to the nomads from Iberia (modern spain and portugal), who ventured over the Mediterranean.
Scientists are still unsure about where exactly these early farmers travelled in order to enter Britain. They believe it was through France, Wales, or South-west England. Radiocarbon dating suggests that they arrived earlier in the West.
Upon the nomad’s arrival in 4000 B.C. , Britain was already home to groups of “western hunter-gatherers.” However, DNA study results show that these groups did not often mingle. BBC details that “the British hunter-gatherers were almost completely replaced by the Neolithic farmers, apart from one group in western Scotland.” Dr Tom Booth, a co-author and a specialist in ancient DNA from the Natural History Museum in London believes that although intermingling may have occurred, “maybe their population sizes were too small to have left any kind of genetic legacy."
More research was done on the DNA of the British hunter-gatherers as well. Cheddar Man, one of Britain’s oldest complete skeletons was analysed and dated back to 7,100 BC. He had dark skin and blue eyes, like many hunter gatherers in Europe at that time. However the Neolithic farmers were paler, with brown eyes and dark hair.
It is known that the migrants to Britain are the humans who introduced megaliths, the construction of monuments with large stones. Stonehenge is one of the most famous yet mystifying examples of this practice.