So far, the history of Europeans has been analyzed with the help of ancient settlements and tools that ancient inhabitants left behind. Now two new studies shed light on the history of Europe using DNA samples of 170 skeletons unearthed from various parts of Europe. One study was conducted by researchers at the Harvard University while another was by archaeologists at the University of Copenhagen. Both studies were published in the journal Nature.
The first group of migrants came to Europe 45,000 years ago
Both studies suggest that three groups of humans came to Europe at different points in history. The first group was of hunter-gatherers, who came about 45,000 years ago. The second group came about 8,000 years ago. It consisted of farmers from the Near East. Finally, a group of nomads from western Russia, called Yamanya, came to Europe about 4,500 years ago.
Researchers from either team agreed that the Yamanya language gave rise to many of the modern European languages. When the farmers from Turkey arrived about 8,000 years ago, the hunter-gatherer group did not disappear. They managed to survive in various parts of Europe. About 5,000 years ago, the DNA of hunter-gatherers started appearing in the genes of farmers, which suggests inter-breeding.
Yamanya gave Europeans their brown eyes, pale skin
A new kind of DNA arrived about 4,500 years ago, and this DNA is very common in most of the modern Europeans. Both groups of archaeologists found that the new DNA matched skeletons in the Yamanya graves in Russia and Ukraine. Yamanyas brought metal skills and a genetic mutations that allowed Europeans to tolerate drinking cow’s milk.
Eske Willerslev of the Copenhagen team said, “The genetic composition and distribution of peoples in Europe and Asia today is a surprisingly late phenomenon.” It is only a few thousand years old. Europeans also got their pale skin and brown eyes from the Yamanya.
The Yamanya people used horses to manage their herds of sheep, and followed their livestock with wagons full of water and food. David W. Anthony, the co-author of the Harvard study, said that the expansion of Yamanya people in Europe was peaceful.