In the largest study to date of ancient European DNA, two research teams from the University of Copenhagen and Harvard University have learned that the last of three main groups of immigrants helped initiating the modern Europe.
It was during the Bronze Age, approximately 4,500 years ago, that the third group moved into European land from southern Russia and Georgia in a mass migration. With them they brought a gene allowing individuals to tolerate lactose, as well as the tradition of dairy farming, and also a language that can be traced forward into today’s modern languages in Europe, where many of them share the same traits.
The first major migration to Europe, with hunter-gatherers, happened a lot earlier, 45,000 years ago, and the second significant move, this time by farmers from the Near East, was made almost 8,000 years ago.
Eske Willerslev, a geneticist and professor of evolutionary genetics at the University of Copenhagen talks about the study: “Our study is the first real large-scale population genomic study ever undertaken on ancient individuals. We analyzed genome sequence data from 101 past individuals. This is more than a doubling of the number of genomic sequenced individuals of prehistoric man generated to date. The study is without any comparison to anything previously made.”
The origins of the skeletons were from several places, from Spain to Russia, and indicates that these Caucasians, or Eurasians, called Yamnaya, were a part of a major immigration taking place some 3,000 years B.C. The Yamnayas were known to be nomadic sheepherders, originating from western Russia.
Pontus Skoglund, population geneticist at Harvard University Medical School states that: “It’s pretty clear that these eastern cultures in the Bronze Age are linked to the Yamnaya.” They influenced the native Europeans and their culture with both their genomes, customs and technology, which is also traceable into modern areas and ways of life.