MAR 05, 2015 09:30 AM PST

Genomes document ancient mass migration to Europe

WRITTEN BY: Robert Woodard
Nomadic herders moved en masse into Europe from the steppe around 4,500 years ago
DNA analysis has revealed evidence for a massive migration into the heartland of Europe 4,500 years ago.

Analysis of the genomes of 69 ancient individuals by an international team of scientists suggest that herders moved en masse from the continent's eastern periphery into Central Europe. This may explain the expansion of Indo-European languages, which make up the majority of spoken tongues in Europe today.

Prof David Reich and his international team extracted DNA from remains found at archaeological sites around the continent. They used a new DNA-enrichment technique to reduce the amount of sequencing needed to obtain genome-wide data.

Their analyses show that 7,000-8,000 years ago, a closely related group of early farmers moved into Europe from the Near East. These results confirm the findings of previous studies. The farmers were distinct from the indigenous hunter-gatherers they encountered as they spread around the continent. Eventually, the two groups mixed and by 5,000-6,000 years ago, the farmers' genetic signature had become melded with that of the indigenous Europeans.

However, previous studies show that a two-way amalgam of farmers and hunters is not sufficient to capture the genetic complexity of modern Europeans. A third ancestral group must have been added to the melting pot more recently.

The study was published in the March 2, 2015 issue of the journal Nature.

Source: bbc.com, 2 March 2015
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