Mapping genes: How did people travel 10,000 years ago?

  • Snehal Fernandes, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 07, 2016 23:54 IST

The movement of people in prehistoric times took place largely on flatlands, near water bodies and at lower altitudes.

A method developed by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and UM-DAE Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, University of Mumbai, established early migration on the main British island 10,000 years ago took place through five entry points – Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, north England and south England – all on such a topography.

The team validated their findings with the genetic map of the British.

What do these findings lead to? Researchers said the study will help historians and archaeologists locate sites of similar population in a country.

The four-member team simulated prehistoric movements of people based on current topographical satellite data. Validating the findings with Britain’s genetic map has proved the authenticity of their method.

“We chose to study the British population as its genetic make-up is isolated, unlike that of Europe, which has a very genetically mixed populace. Britain got populated much later than Europe,” said Mayank Vahia, the lead investigator, TIFR.

“We couldn’t make use of this method first for India as the country has no detailed genetic data. We have started work on simulating prehistoric human migration into India.”

The study found Scotland was the most isolated in terms of population and therefore, is more genetically pure, with the population in the Orkneys (islands to the north of Scotland) the most genetically distinct.

Wales formed a distinct genetic cluster, followed by a further division between north and south Wales. South east England, which was the first entry point, had a greater genetic mix – also making it the largest population in south England.

While people of Wales merged with the population from south England, those in Scotland merged with the north England populace.

“By the time 1,500 years elapsed, the populations were in contact with each other, but it took another 500 years to completely populate England,” stated the study.

The study ‘Population Dynamics of Early Human Migration in Britain’ was published in PloS One on May 5.

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