In Brief

Half of all males in Western Europe 'descended from one man'

Genetic study of 1,200 men traces their family tree back to powerful Bronze Age 'king'

Half of all males in Western Europe are descended from one man, a Bronze Age "king" who lived 4,000 years ago, a new study by genetic scientists claims.

The monarch is believed to be one of the earliest people to take power in Europe following the Stone Age.

According to the Daily Telegraph, it is likely he was able to wield great power due to his control of new technologies such as wheeled transport, which led to the first examples of organised warfare.

"He was part of a new order which emerged in Europe following the Stone Age," says the paper. "Sweeping away the previous egalitarian Neolithic period and replacing it with hierarchical societies which were ruled by a powerful elite."

Although it is not known who the king was, the scientists say he must have existed because of genetic variation in today's European populations

Dr Chris Tyler-Smith, who led the study, which has been published in the Nature Genetics Journal, told the Telegraph:  "In Europe there was huge population expansion in just a few generations. Genetics can't tell us why it happened but we know that a tiny number of elite males were controlling reproduction and dominating the population."

He added: "Half of the Western European population is descended from just one man. We can only speculate as to what happened. The best explanation is that they may have resulted from advances in technology that could be controlled by small groups of men."

The study analysed sequence differences between the Y chromosomes of more than 1,200 men from 26 populations around the world using data generated by the 1000 Genomes Project. As the chromosome is passed down the male line, mutations can reveal how the men are linked, allowing the researchers to go back generations.

The findings also corroborate the theory that all modern humans evolved out of Africa.

"We see an origin of Y lineages in Africa and a massive expansion in Europe and Asia 50,000-55,000 years ago, just after the time when humans are proposed to have migrated out," Dr Tyler-Smith told the Daily Mail.

The data suggests a "gene flow between Africa and nearby regions of Asia, 50,000 to 80,000 years ago" which "supports the theory that people returned and moved around", says the newspaper.

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