Modern Europeans may be descended from three ancient populations that interbred, a new study shows. Near Easterners, west European hunter-gatherers, and ancient Siberians all seem to have contributed to today’s gene pool. 

A recent genetic study managed to find the for European . The modern Europeans of today are descended from three groups that through Europe over 7,000 years ago.

By comparing genetic samples from Europeans of 7,000 to 8,000 years ago to genetic samples of people in Europe today, scientists found three different populations at the source of modern European life: hunter-gatherers from western Europe (found in all Europeans except Near Easterners); Eurasians from the north, who are similar to ancient Siberians (found in both Europeans and Near Easterners); and Near Eastern farmers.

The team studied one farmer from Germany whose remains are about 7,000 years old, and eight hunter-gatherers from Luxembourg and Sweden who are about 8,000 years old. They compared the genes of those ancient Europeans to 2,345 modern Europeans.

The blue-eyed, dark-skinned hunter-gatherers from Western Europe their genes with light-skinned, dark-eyed farmers from the Near East. Another population, likely descended from ancient Siberians, also contributed to the genetic pool. These people formed the Europeans of today.

The Near Easterners lived in the area that today known as Israel, Syria and Iraq, the area where agriculture originated. These peoples seem to have migrated to Europe, and likely brought agriculture to Europe. They also interbred with the hunter-gatherers already in Europe at the time, giving us -skinned Europeans of today.

The seven hunter-gatherers that the research team analyzed were very closely related to one another. They do not have DNA that matches any people alive today, meaning that they likely were bred out of existence. Some of their genetic features still exist in modern Europeans, though. This suggests that they bred with the migrating Near Easterner farmers. The genes from the ancient hunter-gatherers are more prominent in people living in the northeast section of Europe.

However, the ancient farmer’s DNA is not a good match for modern Europeans, except those living in Sardinia, an island in the . One is that there was a population in the that became .

This study has some interesting results. There are some elements that don’t quite , however. The seven hunter-gatherers they analyzed share some characteristics with Near Easterners, but they are not a perfect match. The team speculated that they may have already interbred with people from other areas while they were migrating from the Near East to Europe.

“The only way we’ll be able to prove this is by getting ancient DNA samples along the potential trail from the Near East to Europe… and seeing if they genetically match these predictions or if they’re different,” said Professor David Reich, an author of the paper.