The researchers have revealed that it was
migrants who founded modern farming,
and not Europeans.
Scientists have long questioned whether it was the migration of farmers into Europe that initiated the agricultural activity boom 7500 years ago, or merely the spread of new ideas.
An international group of researchers, including Dr Wolfgang Haak from the University of Adelaide, has used DNA analysis to reveal that it was the migration of foreigners that first brought farming to central Europe.
Their research has been published in Science on 4 September 2009.
The scientists collected and compared mitochondrial DNA from the skeleton of late European hunter-gatherers (who lived before the rise of modern agriculture), early farmers and modern Europeans.
Large genetic differences were found between all three groups, which indicates that there was no link between the populations.
Eighty-two per cent of the ancient hunter-gatherers' DNA is rare in Central European countries today, suggesting that the two groups are unrelated.
In Science the authors comment, "These analyses provide persuasive evidence that the first farmers were not the descendants of local hunter-gatherers but immigrated into Central Europe at the onset of the Neolithic"
For more information, see the full paper.
Editor's Note: For permission to reproduce this story, please contact ScienceAlert.