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Europe's First Advanced Civilization, The Minoans, Were In Fact European: A Study

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May 14, 2013 06:25 PM EDT
Minoan Art
Fresco from the bronze age excavation of Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece. This image shows a cycladic town and boats in its harbor. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

The origins of the ancient Minoans who inhabited the the island of Crete have long been shrouded in history with speculations varying anywhere from North Africa to the Balkans.

However, through analyzing the mitochondrial DNA taken from skeletal materials from a cave dating between 4,400 and 3,700 years old, scientists discovered they were in fact most closely related to Neolithic and modern European populations as well as the modern inhabitants of the region where the remains were found.

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The first Neolithic humans and the group the scientists believe the Minoans originated from reached Crete an estimated 9,000 years ago, approximately around the same time the people of the Near East were developing and adopting agricultural practices. It was also about this time that farming was introduced into Europe, which in turn led to an extensive diffusion of the Neolithic population.

According to the researchers, this group then went on to established the first major European civilization on the island of Crete at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age.

All told, the Minoan civilization flourished from rouhgly 2700 B.C. to 1420 B.C. and perhaps only ended due to a massive eruption from the Volcano Thera, though others argue invading Mycenaeans spelled the ancient people’s doom.

The Minoans are perhaps best known for their mythical creature the minotaur said to have lived in a labyrinth on Crete

In all, the Minoan mDNA polymorphisms were compared to 135 populations - an analysis only made possible by the fact that the caves containing the remains were sealed off for several centuries and were only accidentally discovered during road construction in 1976, thus maintaining cooler temperatures within the tombs.

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