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European gene pool formed from three tribes

A new study published in journal Nature has suggested that the modern European gene pool was formed after the mixing of three ancient populations with one another in the last 7,000 years.

The report said that blue-eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East. And a mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent.

The findings of the study are based on the analysis of the genomes of nine ancient Europeans. Agriculture originated in the Near East - in modern Syria, Iraq and Israel - before expanding into Europe around 7,500 years ago.

Some earlier studies had found that the new way of life was spread not just via the exchange of ideas, but by migrants too, who interbred with the indigenous European hunter-gatherers they met on the way.

But researchers based the assumptions about European origins were based largely on the genetic patterns of living people. The analysis of genomic DNA from ancient bones has put some of the prevailing theories to the test and it has revealed some surprising facts too.

The biochemical instructions for building a human are found in genomic DNA and it resides within the nucleus of our cells. For the study, the genomes of seven hunter-gatherers from Scandinavia, one hunter whose remains were found in a cave in Luxembourg and an early farmer from Germany, were studied by Prof David Reich from the Harvard Medical School and colleagues.