M173: Colonizing Europe The First Modern Europeans
As my ancestors continued to move west, a man born around 30,000 years ago in Central Asia gave rise to a lineage defined by the genetic marker M173. His descendants were part of the first large wave of humans to reach Europe.
During this period, the Eurasian steppelands extended from present-day Germany, and possibly France, to Korea and China. The climate fostered a land rich in resources and opened a window into Europe.

My ancestors' arrival in Europe heralded the end of the era of the Neandertals, a hominid species that inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia from about 29,000 to 230,000 years ago. Better communication skills, weapons, and resourcefulness probably enabled my ancestors to outcompete Neandertals for scarce resources. This wave of migration into Western Europe marked the appearance and spread of what archaeologists call the Aurignacian culture. The culture is distinguished by significant innovations in methods of manufacturing tools, more standardization of tools, and a broader set of tool types, such as end-scrapers for preparing animal skins and tools for woodworking.

In addition to stone, the first modern humans to reach Europe used bone, ivory, antler, and shells as part of their tool kit. Bracelets and pendants made of shells, teeth, ivory, and carved bone appear at many sites. Jewelry, often an indication of status, suggests a more complex social organization was beginning to develop.

The large number of archaeological sites found in Europe from around 30,000 years ago indicates that there was an increase in population size.

Around 20,000 years ago, the climate window shut again, and expanding ice sheets forced my ancestors to move south to Spain, Italy, and the Balkans. As the ice retreated and temperatures became warmer, beginning about 12,000 years ago, many descendants of M173 moved north again to repopulate places that had become inhospitable during the Ice Age.
Not surprisingly, today the number of descendants of the man who gave rise to marker M173 remains very high in Western Europe. It is particularly concentrated in northern France and the British Isles where it was carried by ancestors who had weathered the Ice Age in Spain.

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