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Stonehenge builders came from as far as modern-day Turkey, DNA suggests

Stonehenge was built around 5,000 years ago and now we might now who built it. Credit: PA

The ancient builders behind Stonehenge originally came from as far as modern-day Turkey, a study has suggested.

After analysing DNA from late-Stone Age Britons, researchers in London say findings suggest the inhabitants around the time Stonehenge was built followed a route along the Mediterranean.

They arrived in around 4,000 BC, roughly a millennium before Stonehenge was built.

The findings, published in a journal for Nature Ecology & Evolution, also claim “overwhelming support” that agriculture was introduced to these shores by the same people.

What does the research show?

The people behind the building of Stonehenge descended from people in the Mediterranean, the study claims. Credit: PA

Researchers analysed DNA from 67 Neolithic (the late Stone Age) people found in Britain and six from the Mesolithic era, before chipped stone tools became more advanced.

These individuals dated back as far as 8500 BC up to 2500 BC.

Mark Thomas, one of the authors of the study, said the findings have uncovered two major population replacements in Britain over the past 10,000 years.

The first came in around 4,000 BC, when farmers from the Mediterranean replaced the indigenous hunter-gatherer population, and another a millennium later as groups from Steppe (modern-day Ukraine and Russia) moved in at the cusp of the Bronze Age.

He told ITV News the evidence was “overwhelmingly convincing” that farming was brought to Britain, rather than taken up by the indigenous population.

Farming came to Europe from the Middle East, he said, through two routes: either along the Mediterranean, and the other through Central into Northern Europe – the Danubian route.

Mark Thomas, a professor of evolutionary genetics at University College London, said their data suggests farming’s route to Britain came through the former.

They also show that there is little evidence of substantial interbreeding between the Mesolithic and incoming Neolithic British individuals.

This population replacement coincided with the transition to farming in Britain, the report found.

Unlike other European regions, this transition was not influenced by detectable interbreeding with local foragers.

First Britons ‘had dark skin’

Cheddar Man lived in Britain around 300 generations ago. Credit: PA

This new research comes a little more than a year after the first modern Briton was revealed to have "dark to black" skin.

Britain's oldest complete skeleton, who lived around 300 generations ago and is known as Cheddar Man, was discovered more than a century ago in Gough's Cave in Somerset.

Examinations of his DNA and facial reconstruction of the fossil last year indicate the young man, a huner-gatherer, would have had a darker complexion than first thought.

Evidence found by evolution and DNA specialists at the Natural History Museum and UCL suggests pigmentation associated with northern European ancestry occurred more recently than previously believed.