Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown.
The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent.
He was part of a new order which emerged in Europe following the Stone Age, sweeping away the previous egalitarian Neolithic period and replacing it with hierarchical societies which were ruled by a powerful elite.
It is likely his power stemmed from advances in technology such as metal working and wheeled transport which enabled organised warfare for the first time.
Although it is not known who he was, or where he lived, scientists say he must have existed because of genetic variation in today’s European populations.
Dr Chris Tyler-Smith, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: “One of the most novel and exciting things we have found in the study is the extraordinary explosion in numbers of males at specific times.
“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.
“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.
“Wheeled transport, metal working and organised warfare are all candidate explanations that can now be investigated further.”