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When modern Eurasia was born – groundbreaking study published in Nature

In a study lead by the Centre for GeoGenetics, geneticists and archaeologists from Gothenburg University have generated the largest ancient genomic study to date, and in doing so established how the foundation for modern Europe and Central Asia was laid. Their results are published in the scientific journal Nature

Was it a massive migration? Or was it rather a slow and persistent seeping of people, items and ideas that laid the foundation for the demographic map of Europe and Central Asia that we see today? The Bronze Age (about 5,000 – 3,000 years ago) was a period with large cultural upheavals. But just how these upheavals came to be have remained shrouded in mystery.

Assistant Professor Morten Allentoft from the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen is a geneticist and is first author on the paper in Nature. He says:

– Both archaeologists and linguists have had theories about how cultures and languages have spread in our part of the world. We geneticists have now collaborated with them to publish an explanation based on a record amount of DNA-analyses of skeletons from the Bronze Age.

So far the archaeologists have been divided into two different camps. Professor Kristian Kristiansen of the University of Gothenburg, who initiated the project together with Lundbeck Foundation Professor Eske Willerslev says:

– The driving force in our study was to understand the big economical and social changes that happened at the beginning of the third millennium BC, spanning the Urals to Scandinavia. The old Neolithic farming cultures were replaced by a completely new perception of family, property and personhood. I and other archaeologists share the opinion that these changes came about as a result of massive migrations.

With this new investigation the researchers confirm that the changes came about as a result of migrations. The researchers think that this is interesting also because later developments in the Bronze Age are a continuation of this new social perception. Things add up because the migrations can also explain the origin of the northern European language families. Both language and genetics have been with us all the way up to the present. Kristian Kristiansen even thinks that it was crucial events that happened during these few centuries, as crucial as the colonization of the Americas.

One of the main findings from the study is how these migrations resulted in huge changes to the European gene-pool, in particular conferring a large degree of admixture on the present populations. Genetically speaking, ancient Europeans from the time post these migrations are much more similar to modern Europeans than those prior the Bronze Age.

For complete press release, please see http://geogenetik.ku.dk

For article in Nature, please see: http://www.nature.com/news/dna-data-explosion-lights-up-the-bronze-age-1.17723

Link to video:
http://video.ku.dk/v.ihtml/player.html?token=a36951afab159e9f5cc4a9309a5d5dc7&source=embed&photo%5fid=11639810

For further information please contact:
Assistant Professor Morten Allentoft, Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark
morten.allentoft@gmail.com
+45 2982 4634+45 2982 4634

Associate Professor Martin Sikora, Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark
martin.sikora@snm.ku.dk
+45 3153 8770+45 3153 8770

Professor Kristian Kristiansen, University of Gothenburg
kristian.kristiansen@archaeology.gu.se
+46 704185767+46 704185767

Lundbeck Foundation Professor Eske Willerslev, Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark
ewillerslev@snm.ku.dk
+45 2875 1309+45 2875 1309

Communications Officer Uffe Wilken, Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark
ugwilken@snm.ku.dk
+45 4018 5992+45 4018 5992; +45 3177 2016+45 3177 2016

Communications Officer Martin L. Bertelsen, Natural History Museum of Denmark
mlbertelsen@snm.ku.dk
+45 2448 2147+45 2448 2147

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