The roles of migration, admixture and acculturation in the European transition to farming have been debated for over 100 years. Genome-wide ancient DNA studies indicate predominantly Aegean ancestry for continental Neolithic farmers, but also variable admixture with local Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Neolithic cultures first appear in Britain circa 4000 bc, a millennium after they appeared in adjacent areas of continental Europe. The pattern and process of this delayed British Neolithic transition remain unclear. We assembled genome-wide data from 6 Mesolithic and 67 Neolithic individuals found in Britain, dating 8500–2500 bc. Our analyses reveal persistent genetic affinities between Mesolithic British and Western European hunter-gatherers. We find overwhelming support for agriculture being introduced to Britain by incoming continental farmers, with small, geographically structured levels of hunter-gatherer ancestry. Unlike other European Neolithic populations, we detect no resurgence of hunter-gatherer ancestry at any time during the Neolithic in Britain. Genetic affinities with Iberian Neolithic individuals indicate that British Neolithic people were mostly descended from Aegean farmers who followed the Mediterranean route of dispersal. We also infer considerable variation in pigmentation levels in Europe by circa 6000 bc.
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The authors would like to thank the Longleat Estate, T. Lord at Lower Winskill Farm, B. Chandler at Torquay Museum, A. Chamberlain at the University of Manchester, L. Wilson and G. Mullan at the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society, E. Walker, A. Gwilt and J. Deacon at the National Museum of Wales, A. Maxted at Brighton Museum, M. Lahr at the Duckworth Laboratory, B. Lane at Wells Museum, M. Smith at Bournemouth University, D. Rice at the Museum of Gloucester and R. Kruszynski at the Natural History Museum for providing access to samples. In addition, Y.D. wishes to thank J. Blöcher, A. Scheu, C. Sell and J. Burger for discussions on the bioinformatic pipeline, and V. Link for help with ATLAS. M.G.T. and I.B. were supported by a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award (project No. 100713/Z/12/Z). S.C. was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/K500987/1). L.v.D acknowledges financial support from the Newton Trust (grant No. MR/P007597/1). R.M. was supported by an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship (No. ALTF 133-2017). D.R. was supported by a NIH grant (No. GM100233), by NSF HOMINID (No. BCS-1032255) and by an Allen Discovery Center of the Paul Allen Foundation, and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. C.S. is supported by the Calleva Foundation and the Human Origins Research Fund. S.W. was supported by the US National Institute of Justice (grant No. 2014-DN-BX-K031).
Supplementary Notes 1–7 and Supplementary Figs. 1–23
Summary of sequencing data per individual with relevant metadata
Pairwise comparison of WHG admixture proportions
New radiocarbon dates and stable isotopes
Chronological model outputs
SOURCEFIND inferred proportions of ancient ancestry
SOURCEFIND inferred proportions of modern ancestry