Unknown ancestry of Ice Age Europeans discovered in genetic study

A previously unknown lineage of Europeans survived the coldest parts of the last ice age, only to disappear when Europe experienced a heatwave around 15,000 years ago.

The discovery comes from the largest study to date of the genetic make-up of European Ice Age hunter-gatherers.

Glaciers have covered much of Europe for the past 100,000 years. About 45,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers began to enter Europe from Africa via the Middle East and fought during the Last Ice Age Maximum (about 25,000 to 19,000 years ago), the coldest part of the last ice age.

These male and female skulls were found in Oberkassel, western Germany, although genetically these two must have been southern. This is believed to be the oldest evidence of migration during global warming. (Image credit: Jürgen Vogel, LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn)

Archaeologists know the first modern humans in Europe from the artifacts they left behind. However, few human fossils survive from these early cultures, so little is known about how these ancient people migrated and were related to each other.

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