European Faces Reflect Stone Age Ancestry, Study Says

December 20, 2005

Europeans inherit their looks from Stone Age hunters, new research suggests.

Scientists studied ancient skeletons from Scandinavia to North Africa and Greece, comparing ancient and modern facial features.

Their analysis suggests modern Europeans are closely related and descended from prehistoric indigenous peoples.

Later Neolithic settlers—notably immigrants who introduced farming from the Near East some 7,500 years ago—contributed little to how Europeans look today, the researchers add.

The scientists described their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition.

The study suggests that the arrival of farming did not signal a broad wave of colonization as some scientists had thought. Rather, native hunter-gatherers absorbed the farming way of life and those who brought it.

The findings are based on 24 face measurements of modern-day Europeans compared with those of their prehistoric predecessors.

The team focused on facial dimensions which are "neutral" and don't change as human populations adapt over time to different environments and lifestyles.

Because these features are passed down generation to generation, they are good markers of human ancestry, according to lead study author Loring Brace.

The University of Michigan anthropologist says the craniofacial remains of late Stone Age Europeans reflect those of earlier inhabitants who lived 35,000 to 10,000 years ago.

"They're really fairly close," he said.

Brow Ridge

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