DNA taken from the wisdom tooth of a European hunter-gatherer has given scientists an unprecedented glimpse of modern humans before the rise of farming. The Mesolithic man, who lived in Spain around 7,000 years ago, had an unusual mix of blue eyes, black or brown hair, and dark skin, according to analyses of his genetic make-up.
He was probably lactose intolerant and had more difficulty digesting starchy foods than the farmers who transformed diets and lifestyles when they took up tools in the first agricultural revolution.
The invention of farming brought humans and animals into much closer contact, and humans likely evolved more robust immune systems to fend off infections that the animals passed on.
But scientists may have over-estimated the impact farming had in shaping the human immune system, because tests on the hunter-gatherer’s DNA found that he already carried mutations that boost the immune system to tackle various nasty bugs. Some live on in modern Europeans today.