The Minoans were Caucasian: DNA debunks longstanding theory that Europe’s first advanced culture was from Africa

  • British  archaeologists who in 1900 discovered the Minoan culture believed they were from  Libya or Egypt
  • The Minoan  civilisation arose on Crete in the 27th century BC and flourished until the 15th  century BC

By  Damien Gayle

PUBLISHED: 16:13 EST, 16 May  2013 |  UPDATED: 03:49  EST, 17 May 2013

A Minoan fresco of children boxing: New DNA analysis has debunked the theory that the Minoans were refugees from North Africa
A Minoan fresco of children boxing: New DNA analysis has  debunked the theory that the Minoans were refugees from North Africa

DNA analysis has debunked the longstanding  theory that the Minoans, who some 5,000 years ago established Europe’s first  advanced Bronze Age culture, were from Africa.

The Minoan civilisation arose on the  Mediterranean island of Crete in approximately the 27th century BC and  flourished for 12 centuries until the 15th century BC.

But the culture was lost until British  archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans unearthed its remains on Crete in 1900, where he  found vestiges of a civilisation he believed was formed by refugees from  northern Egypt.

Modern archaeologists have cast doubt  on  that version of events, and now DNA tests of Minoan remains suggests  they were  descended from ancient farmers who settled the islands  thousands of years  earlier.

These people, it is believed, are from the  same stock that came from the East to populate the rest of Europe.

Evans set to work on Crete in 1900 with a  team of archaeologists soon after  the island was liberated from the yoke of the  Ottoman empire, almost  immediately unearthing a great palace.

He named the civilisation he discovered after  the legendary Greek king  Minos and, based on likenesses between Minoan  artifacts and those from  Egypt and Libya, proposed that its founders migrated  into the area from  North Africa.

Since then,  other archaeologists have  suggested that the Minoans may have come from  other regions, possibly Turkey,  the Balkans, or the Middle East.

But now a joint U.S. and Greek team has made  a mitochondrial DNA analysis of  Minoan skeletal remains to determine the likely  ancestors of the ancient people.

Mitochondria, the  energy powerhouses of  cells, contain their own DNA, or genetic code, and because mitochondrial DNA is  passed down from mothers to their children  via the human egg, it contains  information about maternal ancestry.

Findings suggest that the Minoan civilisation  arose from the population already  living in Crete, and that these people were  probably descendants of the  first humans to reach there about 9,000 years  ago.

Further, they found, the remains have the  greatest genetic similarity with modern European populations.

Senior researcher Dr George  Stamatoyannopoulos, professor of medicine and  genome sciences at the University  of Washington, said the analysis  showed these people probably came to the area  from the East, not the  South.

Minoan Palace Ruins at Knossos: The Minoan culture, Europe's first advanced civilisation, arose on the Mediterranean island of Crete in approximately the 27th century BC and flourished for 12 centuries Minoan Palace Ruins at Knossos: The Minoan culture,  Europe’s first advanced civilisation, arose on the Mediterranean island of Crete  in approximately the 27th century BC and flourished for 12 centuries

‘About 9,000 years ago there was an extensive  migration of Neolithic humans from the regions of Anatolia that today comprise  parts of Turkey and the Middle East,’ he said.

‘At the same time, the first Neolithic  inhabitants reached Crete.

‘Our mitochondrial DNA analysis shows that  the Minoans’ strongest genetic relationships are with these Neolithic humans, as  well as with ancient and modern Europeans.

‘These results suggest the Minoan  civilization arose 5,000 years ago in Crete from an ancestral Neolithic  population that had arrived in the region about 4,000 years earlier.

‘Our data suggest that the Neolithic  population that gave rise to the Minoans also migrated into Europe and gave rise  to modern European peoples.’

‘Our data suggest that the Neolithic  population  that gave rise to the Minoans also migrated into Europe and  gave rise to modern  European peoples’

George Stamatoyannopoulos, professor of medicine and  genome sciences at the University of Washington

Dr Stamatoyannopoulos and his team analysed  samples from 37 skeletons found in a cave in Crete’s Lassithi plateau and  compared them with mitochondrial DNA sequences from 135 modern and ancient human  populations.

The Minoan samples revealed 21 distinct  mitochondrial DNA variations, of which six were unique to the Minoans and 15  were shared with modern and ancient populations.

None of the Minoans carried mitochondrial DNA  variations characteristic of African populations.

Further analysis showed that the Minoans were  only distantly related to Egyptian, Libyan, and other North African populations.

Indeed, the Minoan shared the greatest  percentage of their mitochondrial DNA variation with European populations,  especially those in Northern and Western Europe.

A restored Minoan clay vessel at the Palace of Malia ruins: Sir Arthur Evans, who discovered the Minoan civilisation, proposed his theory of its origin based on likenesses between Minoan artefacts and those from EgyptA restored clay vessel at the Palace of  Malia ruins:  Sir Arthur Evans, who discovered the civilisation,  proposed his theory of its  origin based on likenesses between Minoan  artefacts and those from Egypt and  Libya

When plotted geographically, shared Minoan  mitochondrial DNA variation was lowest in North Africa and increased  progressively across the Middle East, Caucasus, Mediterranean islands, Southern  Europe, and mainland Europe.

The highest percentage of shared Minoan  mitochondrial DNA variation was found with Neolithic populations from Southern  Europe.

The analysis also showed a high degree of  sharing with the current population of the Lassithi plateau and Greece.

In fact, the maternal genetic information  passed down through many generations of mitochondria is still present in  modern-day residents of the area where the Minoan skeletons were  found.

Dr Stamatoyannopoulos said he believes that  the findings highlight the importance of DNA analysis as a tool for  understanding human history.

‘Genetic analyses are playing in increasingly  important role and predicting and protecting human health,’ he said.

‘Our study underscores the importance of DNA  not only in helping us to have healthier futures, but also to understand our  past.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2325768/The-Minoans-Caucasian-DNA-debunks-longstanding-theory-Europes-advanced-culture-Africa.html#ixzz2TZ0ziyw1 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook



Categories: Counter Intuitive

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: