DNA From Early Europeans Gives New Insight Into Their History

Ancient Europeans have been studied for centuries by scientists. Archaeologists have been digging up ancient settlements belonging to them and getting a glimpse into their lives. Now, we have even more in-depth and telling data: their DNA. In the journal Nature, two teams of researchers from prestigious universities- University of Copenhagen and Harvard University– have published the biggest studies of ancient Europeans’ DNA, having taken a combined total of samples from 170 skeletons found anywhere from Spain to Russia. Both studies published by the universities indicate that all of today’s Europeans are descendants of members of three groups. Each of these groups moved into Europe at different points in time.


First Europeans were hunter gatherers dating back 45,000 years.


The first wave of people to move into Europe was a group of hunter-gatherers who arrived around 45,000 years ago. The second wave consisted of farmers from the Near East, and they arrived around 8,000 years ago. The last wave was a group of nomadic sheepherders from west Russia. They were known as the Yamnaya, and they came to Europe about 4,500 years ago.


Third wave of Europeans thought to be responsible for many modern European languages.


It is theorized within the new studies that the language spoken by the Yamnaya evolved into many of the languages still spoken by modern Europeans. The new DNA has shown that it was not just the farming idea that was responsible for the massive rise of farming societies in Europe, but also actual migration of farmers. That is not to say that hunter gatherers disappeared from Europe altogether, since they managed to survive in a few pockets across Europe, sandwiched between farming communities.


Third wave of European DNA has striking similarities to Yamnaya people.

The Yamnaya people seem to be the ones most closely related to modern Europeans, based on analysis of the new DNA. The Yamnaya lived on the steppes of western Russia and Ukraine, about 5,300 to 4,600 years ago. They were skilled shepherds, using horses to hold herds of sheep at bay and move them. They carried wagons filled with water and food provisions, and were generally a very successful people. They could afford weapons, jewelry, and elaborate gifts for the dead. Such gifts were given in the form of funeral mounds, and they were often packed with jewels, weapons, animals, and even sometimes whole chariots.


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