Experts Pick Up the Scent of Ancient Pigs; North Researchers Trace Farm History

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Byline: By Tony Henderson Environment Editor

NEW light has been shed by North-East archaeologists on how farming began in Europe.

The earliest domesticated pigs in Europe were actually introduced from the Middle East by Stone Age farmers, new research suggests.

The work, led by archaeologists at Durham University, involved the analysis of DNA from ancient and modern pig remains.

Findings also suggest that the migration of an expanding Middle Eastern population, who brought their domesticated plants, animals and pottery styles with them, "kick started" the local domestication of the European wild boar.

While archaeologists already know that agriculture began about 12,000 years ago in the central and western parts of the Middle East, spreading rapidly across Europe between 6800BC and 4000BC, questions remain about how it spread.

Durham University's Dr Keith Dobney said: "Many archaeologists believe that farming spread through the diffusion of ideas and cultural exchange, not with the direct migration of people.

"However, the discovery and analysis of ancient Middle Eastern pig remains across Europe reveals that although cultural exchange did happen, Europe was definitely colonised by Middle Eastern farmers.

"A combination of rising population and possible climate change, which put pressure on land and resources, made them look for new places to settle, plant their crops and breed their animals and so they rapidly spread west into Europe. …