By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor
First Published: 12:01AM BST 20 May 2015
Almost two out of three modern European men (64 per cent) were descended from just three Bronze Age males
Most European men descend from just three Bronze Age dominant forefathers who began a ‘population explosion’ several thousand years ago.
A research team from the University of Leicester looked at the DNA sequences of 334 men from 17 European and Middle Eastern populations.
The study shows that almost two out of three modern European men (64 per cent) were descended from just three males.
Archaeologists have been puzzled about whether European populations started to surge in the stone age or later. But the new research appears to suggest that there was a rapid expansion of communities in the succeeding Bronze Age.
It appears that that between 2,000 and 4,000 years ago there was a raid explosion in the size of populations from the Balkans to the British Isles.
Professor Mark Jobling from the Department of Genetics at Leicester University said: “The population expansion falls within the Bronze Age, which involved changes in burial practices, the spread of horse-riding and developments in weaponry.
“Dominant males linked with these cultures could be responsible for the Y chromosome patterns we see today.”
Now the team is hoping to study skeletal remains to see if they can pinpoint the exact period that triggered the sudden population expansion.
Study lead author Chiara Batini, from the University of Leicester’s Department of Genetics, added: “Given the cultural complexity of the Bronze Age, it’s difficult to link a particular event to the population growth that we infer.
“But Y-chromosome DNA sequences from skeletal remains are becoming available, and this will help us to understand what happened, and when.”
The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.