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Thread: Europe's Languages Were Carried From the East via the steppes, DNA Shows

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    Europe's Languages Were Carried From the East via the steppes, DNA Shows

    The new settlers, revealed by a genetic analysis, may solve a mystery swirling around the origins of Indo-European languages.

    The new study, published Monday in the journal Nature, suggests that instead of one mass migration of farmers, as long thought, there were two: first an influx from Anatolia, a region of today's Turkey, and then a second wave of people moving into central Europe from the steppes of modern-day Russia, four millennia later, who would have brought with them the Indo-European languages that became English and many other modern European languages.

    "First there are early hunter-gatherers, then come farmers, then farmers mix with hunter-gatherers—then comes a new population from the east, which is the major migration," says Iosif Lazaridis, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the paper.

    Evidence of this second mass migration came to light while Lazaridis and colleagues were working to reconstruct the origins of modern Europeans, using DNA recovered from the bones of 69 ancient inhabitants of the continent. The specimens, which ranged from 3,000 to 8,000 years old, were compared to each other and to modern European populations.

    The Yamnaya and Corded Ware people were separated by five centuries and a thousand miles, but they shared at least 75 percent of their ancestry—and perhaps as much as 100 percent. "
    The genetic and linguistic data support the idea that Indo-European entered Europe via the steppes around 4,500 years ago, but "it's still not clear to me where the oldest branches" of the language come from, says Carles Lalueza-Fox, a geneticist at the University of Barcelona. Indo-European might have originated elsewhere, with the steppe route being just one of several ways that a root tongue made it to southern Europe, Iran, and India, Lalueza-Fox says.

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