New tech gives us a sharp view of how farming swept across Eurasia during the Neolithic.

The greatest technological revolution in human history arguably happened about 12,000 years ago, when humans first stopped living as hunter gatherers and became farmers. This so-called Neolithic Revolution transformed human culture, our genomes, and our ecosystems. But the origins of farming have remained a mystery. Was there one eureka moment, when an early Neolithic person realized the seeds they scattered in fall had sprouted into grains two seasons later? Or, more intriguingly, did several groups of people start farming independently?

Two new studies published this month in Science and Nature magazines use DNA analysis of ancient human bones to conclude that farming arose in multiple regions simultaneously. The Science study focused on four farmers who lived between 9,000 and 10,000 years ago in the mountainous Zagros region of Iran. The Nature study analyzed 44 individuals (farmers as well as hunter-gatherers) from Armenia, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Iran who lived between 14,000 and 3,500 years ago. By sequencing parts of these ancient people's DNA, researchers could determine their likely ancestry as well as what populations are descended from them today. The researchers conclude that there are at least two groups of ancient humans who discovered farming separately in the Middle East and then exported the Neolithic revolution across large parts of the continent.
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