Nearly all men in Europe and the Middle East share just ten common male ancestors, according to a new genetic study published in last week's Science. The team also found that 80 per cent of European men are descendants of just two Stone Age 'hunter-gatherer' lineages, which originated 20,000-40,000 years ago. The remaining eight European founding fathers were Neolithic farmers, who arrived from either the Middle East or Siberia roughly 6000-9000 years ago.
The scientists studied patterns of genetic variation present on the Y chromosome, which is only passed from father to son, using DNA samples taken from 1007 men. The ten different lineages probably represented ten different tribes, according to Dr Peter Underhill of Stanford University.
Earlier this year, a team of geneticists at Oxford University studied DNA from 6000 European women, and found evidence of seven common female ancestors who lived between 8000-45,000 years ago. The new study agrees with the work on female ancestors, and also provides a more detailed picture of the migrations that affected the European population. Ornella Semino, lead author of the study, says this is because women tended to move around more to live with their husbands' families, while men mostly stayed in one place.