From Ancient DNA, a Clearer Picture of Europeans Today

Carl Zimmer, New York Times, October 30, 2014


Up till now, scientists have learned about evolution on the Continent mostly by looking at living Europeans. But advances in biotechnology have made it possible to begin extracting entire DNA from the bones of ancestors who lived thousands of years ago. Their genomes are like time machines, allowing scientists to see bits of European history playing out over thousands of years.

Recently David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues analyzed the genomes of nine ancient Europeans. Eight belonged to hunter-gatherers who lived about 8,000 years ago, seven in what is now Sweden and one in Luxembourg. The ninth came from a farmer who lived 7,000 years ago in present-day Germany.

The scientists compared these genomes with those of living Europeans. As they reported last month in Nature, the study revealed something scientists never knew: Europeans today have genes from three very different populations.

The oldest of these populations were the first Europeans, who appear to have lived as hunter-gatherers. The second were farmers who expanded into Europe about 8,500 years ago from the Near East.

But most living Europeans also carry genes from a third population, which appears to have arrived more recently. Dr. Reich and his colleagues found the closest match in DNA taken from a 24,000-year-old individual in Siberia, suggesting that the third wave of immigrants hailed from north Eurasia. The ancient Europeans that the scientists studied did not share this North Eurasian DNA. They concluded that this third wave must have moved into Europe after 7,000 years ago.

Last week, another team of scientists reported data from an even bigger haul of ancient European genomes–13, all told. While Dr. Reich and his colleagues studied ancient Europeans separated by hundreds of miles, these scientists focused on just one region in Central Europe called the Great Hungarian Plain.

The people whose genomes the scientists retrieved lived on the plain at various times between 7,700 years ago and 2,800 years ago.


The oldest genomes retrieved from human remains in the area–one from a man and one from a woman–date back to the dawn of agriculture on the plain. The woman’s DNA showed that she belonged to the ancient farming population documented by Dr. Reich and his colleagues.

The man, however, did not have the genes of a farmer. He belonged to the oldest population of hunter-gatherers.

“The archaeological information isn’t enough to say whether he was married to a local farmer,” said Ron Pinhasi, an archaeologist at University College Dublin and a co-author of the new study. It may even be that the man’s skull was a trophy of some sort, Dr. Pinhasi added.

Archaeologists have found that early farming culture didn’t change drastically for the next 3,700 years. But about 4,000 years ago, the Bronze Age arrived. People started using bronze tools, trading over longer networks and moving into fortified towns.

Dr. Pinhasi and his colleagues found that the era also brought a sudden shift in human DNA. A new population arrived on the Great Hungarian Plain, and Dr. Reich believes he knows who they were: the northern Eurasians.


At the start of the Bronze Age, life settled down on the plain for a thousand years. But then came the Iron Age, bringing another shift in culture–and genes.

People began traveling across the plain by horse-drawn chariots and wagons, and the genomes from 2,800 years ago show that the people of the Bronze Age had begun to be supplanted by a new Iron Age population. These are the people most closely related to living Hungarians.

In the new study, Dr. Pinhasi and his colleagues also surveyed individual genes known to have changed over the course of European history.

Today, for example, people in Hungary tend to have light skin and light brown hair, and half of them carry a mutation that lets them digest milk as adults. It took thousands of years for the genes for these traits to appear on the Great Hungarian Plain, the scientists found.

The hunter-gatherer that lived 7,700 years ago, for example, probably had black hair and dark skin, along with blue eyes. His genes suggest that he also probably couldn’t digest milk–not surprising, since he came from a population that didn’t raise livestock.


It is not until 6,400 years ago that the scientists find the first genetic evidence on the Great Hungarian Plain for light brown hair. And the milk mutation appeared even later, just 3,100 years ago.

It is possible that these new genes and others were brought to the plain by successive waves of immigrants. But natural selection probably played a role in making these genes pervasive.


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  • Eagle_Eyed

    And this third group brought its language(s) to Europe as well. It’s amazing how much of our heritage we owe to a small band of horse-riding plainsmen.

    • Hapalong Cassidy

      That’s what I got out of this as well. This third group from Northern Eurasia are the “Proto Indo-Europeans” that nearly all people of European descent (as well as many South and Central Asians) owe their language to.

    • bilderbuster

      It took quite a bit of intelligence, skill and group interaction along with courage to capture, harness and domesticate such large and powerful wild animals.

  • IstvanIN

    Me: tend to have light skin and light brown hair, and half of them carry a mutation that lets them digest milk as adults.
    My maternal grandfather: had black hair and dark skin, along with blue eyes.

    • propagandaoftruth

      Hail Turania.

  • MekongDelta69

    I almost never read anything written in The New York Slimes, but I wanted to find the obligatory/mandatory ‘racial catch‘ that the NYT just HAS to throw in.

    Unfortunately, I had to wade through the entire article until I found it:
    “The hunter-gatherer that lived 7,700 years ago, for example, probably had black hair and dark skin, along with blue eyes.”

    Thank you, New York Slimes for not ‘disappointing’ me once again…

    • A. Windaus

      Unless that is a typo and the author meant ‘darker’ then I agree.

      • WhiteGuyInJapan

        I recall Harpending and Cochran wrote that the physical features of modern Europeans may be a relatively recent phenomenon. And that the Africans that moved out of Africa may have been lighter in tone than contemporary Africans.

    • LHathaway

      Actually, there are dark and light skinned whites. There are white-whites who may be kind of pinkish and will only turn red when exposed to the sun, and other whites who will tan fairly well, or even start off with a. . darker. . shade of white. They’re all white, though. Not sure what the Slimes was trying to say. ‘We’re all African’ maybe.

      • benvad

        I’ve seen the picture, it looks like a European whose tanned himself plus hasn’t learned the concept of bathing.

    • Chinese Nationalist Maiden

      I don’t think light skin colour is a relatively recent development in Europeans (and Asians). One would expect that light skin colour develops in an extremely cold period like the last Ice Age (110,000-10,000 BC).

    • M&S


      …but I wanted to find the obligatory/mandatory ‘racial catch’ that the NYT just HAS to throw in.

      The whole social normalization of ‘waves’ of humanity bringing ‘new genes’ should have clued you in sir. Getting old and trusting you are… :-]


      HG cultures are often characterized as being smarter than the early agrarians because the agrarians don’t have to chase their meals and eat more grain than protein while undertaking strenuous physical labor.

      If so, why is it that wide spread trade networks are assumed to be occurring in tandem with the move to fortified cities?

      Do you move to cities to enable the development of a ‘trades class’ of skilled workers whose resource needs can be met, centrally? Or do you move to the cities to avoid ‘trading’ spear and arrow points with the latest wave of savages to come screaming out of the hostile wilderness?

      Early agriculture, backs bent to the tilling of the soil, should not have encouraged trade at all, let alone over broad regions. It is highly seasonally intensive labor.

      Conversely, no hunter becomes a trader when he can simply -take- by acting as a raider.

      Keeping in mind, we have scientists making a living writing essentially fantasy stories of ancient sociological narrative, based on assumptions from ‘individual’ fragmentary forensic and genetic evidence, let me suggest an alternative:
      Mankind has been at the threshold of modernity many times throughout historical and even prehistoric times. Across many cultures and lifestyles.

      History as we know it being one long warning of what happens when a settled culture is overrun by diversity and torn to pieces by the need to compress itself into a defensible area, losing access to the natural wealth and developmental options to trade mates and ideas in an optimal fashion.

      How far from writing to the moveable typeset for mass distribution of knowledge?

      A grape press is closer to it than a hunting saddle.

      How far from a boiling kettle to steam propulsion? A famer’s wife is more likely to have time to make the crockery, wood or metal cookware than a nomadic HG tribal woman.

      Each time a settled people are thrown back from taking the next step towards civilization, it loses gene variant ‘suitability’ in the resident population to attrition and blending from the raider group.

      And this should be a brutally harsh lesson for those who look at history as a sum of all things illustrative journey of hope rather than a tragedy of missed opportunities and potential derailed.

      Beware the barbarian and those who want to make them pets.

    • De Doc

      A similar male specimen of an ancient Hunter-Gatherer from La Brana, Spain showed the same likely charateristics – blue eyes and dark skin and hair. He also had the odd Y-haplogroup of C6, which is also present in two of the Hungarian samples. The artist rendition I saw based on skull reconstruction shows a Caucasoid type with dark skin (think East Indian), not some recent transplant from Sub Saharan Africa.

  • Luca

    Have your DNA analyzed. It’s fascinating. Clearly, Europeans are made of the right stuff.

  • Lewis33

    “What have you been reading, Tommy?”-Turkish

    • Seminumerical

      “You’re not much use to me alive are you Turkish?” -Bricktop

  • libertarian1234

    Besides migrating to other parts of Europe, the third group (Indo-Europeans) also brought the horse drawn chariots down around the Mediterranean area, but if that is ever revealed in an article I’m pretty sure the NYT would refuse to run it. The Caucasian homelands are closer to the Mediterranean areas, including Egypt, than they are to points in Europe, so I can’t see that it is unusual to expect a migration to those areas also.

    And these Near East Eurasians he refers too are also the Indo-Europeans who migrated down into Iran, (Aryan), India into the Indus River Valley, as well as Mesopotamia, North Africa and Egypt from the Black/Caspian Sea area in what is now Russia.

    In some areas today, the light hair and blue eyes can still be found, but most of it has been bred out of existence, leaving most of the populations in those areas looking like Caucasoids with tans and very dark brown or black hair.

    The Yazidis in Syria (A few Kurds also) and Iraq have retained their European appearances for the most part, due to their preference to intermarry only within their own tribal factions for centuries.

    It was an ISIS murderer who declared that they hated the Yazidis with light complexions and light hair and eyes, and he announced that the intent of ISIS was to “breed them out of existence,” by killing the men and boys when they were captured and giving the women to their troops to be used as sex slaves.

    It amounts to an ethnic cleansing as bad as any in world history, but we’ll see hell freeze over before the corrupt NYT EVER runs an expose on it.

    And, of course, if they were black refugees on the verge of being exterminated the community organizer would have already sent a thousand troop carriers there to relocate them to the US, and the pitiful Moochelle would be holding up a sign for the cameras saying, “Save our women and children.” And the situation would be headlines in the corrupt MSM for months.

    But nobody even knows about these poor Yazidis but a few of us. Right now some of them are still on a mountain with no food and water afraid to come down, because they’ll be slaughtered by ISIS.

    The community organizer gives 5000 US troops to “his people” in Liberia, but he can’t spare even one squad to help the white people under the thumb of ISIS.

    He doesn’t mind if they’re murdered.

    • propagandaoftruth

      All hail the Peacock Angel! The Yazidis are definitely my favorite group of poor White remnants being genocided by Islam.

      Can’t wait to proclaim myself as the Late Bloomin’ Antichrist.

      Amazing how Islam is managing to tick off and insult both God and the Other Guy, lol. Just wait ’til Karma kicks in, though…

      Then Ragnarok!

    • WR_the_realist

      And how was Syria weakened in the first place to the point where ISIS can now take over large parts of that country? By the foreign policy of Obama and the neocons.

  • Eastern European women are the most beautiful in the world. You often see the trait called “Chinese eyes” on them, along with milky white skin and black hair. I assume that those traits are from the northeast Asian invaders discussed in the article. Or perhaps from later invasions from such as by Gheghis Khan, etc. It’s a miracle that white people even exist, given all these population movements.

    • Periapsis

      And they are the largest group of whites abducted or trafficked into slavery at the hands of both Jews and Muslims for centuries. In fact, sex trafficking of Slavic women and girls is a major threat to the peoples of Eastern Europe today. As for Genghis Khan, he killed at least 40 million people alone, his descendants repeatedly killed every last person in Kiev, Moscow, Novgorod and other cities and burned them to the ground. They decimated the Slavs, who to this day regard Genghis Khan as the Devil incarnate. That was why they slaughtered them in kind even up to Ivan the Terrible’s time. When they converted to Islam, things got worse, a lot worse.

    • Itooktheredpill

      Its a largely a myth that Slavs have a significant conurbation to their genome from the Mongolians. Sure in some places in Russia where the two populations lived side by side for a few hundred years there was some intermingling but the vast majority of Russians are unmixed. The Poles, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Czechs even less so. As a matter of fact Mongolian DNA is barely detectable in their populations. Thats what the testing shows anyway. Also most eastern european women have blonde hair and blue eyes.

      • IstvanIN

        Some people, even White people, seem to be of the impression that we have big, round eyes, like from a Japanese cartoon. We don’t, our eyes are basically “almond-nish” in shape, not round. It is the epithantic fold that separates the basic shape of our eyes from the Oriental eye.

    • Bossman

      So how come they are not the ones winning the Miss Universe Contest? That prize usually goes to Latin American women.

      • IstvanIN

        You mean those very Caucasian looking latinas?

  • Ella

    How many non-Europeans can enjoy a cold glass of milk and eat cheese well into their eighties without lactose intolerance?

    • benvad

      Is that only for white people?

      • WhiteGuyInJapan

        Lactose tolerance is found in higher frequency among Europeans than in other genetic populations. Certain Central Asians and some Africans as well.

        • IstvanIN

          Basically herding cultures that learned that by milking the cow, rather than eating her right away, they had a year round supply of protein.

    • 1stworlder

      That’s part of why CA is broke and still does door to door raw milk raids, don’t want people to notice patterns

  • IKUredux

    Once again, I must caution everyone here that ANY so called data that comes out nowadays is suspect. There is a political agenda that is being advanced. Frankly, at this point in time, you must view ANY so called scientific analysis as nothing more than a by-product of the (By Any Means Necessary School of Egalitarian Thought) which will be shoved down your throat whether you believe it or not. Welcome to Bamnsoet University! You can flunk, but you can never leave. (Thanks Eagles).

    • libertarian1234

      That’s true. The field of science has been almost totally corrupted with PC wherein very little comes from them that can be true science that searches for the truth.

      On more than a few occasions I’ve read discoveries in archeology and anthropology that are favorable to the white race reported with the caveat that they’re not really referring to any group of people so that what their findings indicate can be politically exploited by anyone.

      They mean whites of course, because they have no such similar compunctions when it comes to telling us of anything that might be favorable to non-whites.

      An example is the Solutrean findings in the US indicating that it was Europeans who were here before the Indians. The PC liars are quick to say that Solutreans weren’t necessarily white Europeans, even though their origins have been verified as being in France and that area after the ice age was inhabited by Caucasians.

  • Curious

    Although it is PC-unpopular now, European genetics are fascinating and in following purely European family lines, you can watch our own real diversity show clearly through variants of eye and hair color. Incomplete and shared gene dominance rather than classic dominant/recessive traits further the beautiful palette that is European ancestry.

    I’ve done extensive family research that brought me back to (pretty much exclusively) Northern England/southern Scotland, and then another branch of the family from the Rhineland/Alsace & Lorraine area. It’s very common in our family to have that sort of hair that is very blond as a baby but darkens as one gets older, but the occasional lighter haired or chestnut-haired person pops up. Hazel eyes (heterochromatic) are also common; but my son’s eyes turned out pale blue.

    I am close to a family who are not long out of Russia, with a beautiful daughter – tall and thin, dark hair, almost jet, and clear blue eyes. Very pale. A lot of the Russian immigrants I have met have blue eyes and dark hair (although the women bleach their hair so you don’t notice at first).

    • David Ashton

      My father had bright blue eyes, a very pink skin, black hair and a singularly handsome face, like many of his compatriots in the Devonshire region of his birth and many Irish males. A lot of anachronistic fussing about Nordic, Mediterranean and Alpine features tends to take our eyes of the real ball – which is the demographic threat from the south and east.

  • Fr. John+

    “The hunter-gatherer that lived 7,700 years ago, for example, probably had black hair and dark skin, along with blue eyes.”

    Boy, the Caucaphobia among Evolutionists is as bad as the Negrophilia among Democrats who voted for the losing side-twice in the last 8 years, especially after last night’s rout.

    But then, Liberal Haters gonna hate… especially those of us who are ‘Aryan Man.’ I guess, based on this bias and discrimination, all of us whites,,, well, we’re just victims. But we’re not sitting around and sobbing over it. It’s not in our genes. We’re waking up… just like Kipling said we would.

  • mrfinoni

    the article is trying to highlight cultural and genetic shift. to deter White solidarity. The extreme left hate the prospect of White solidarity.

  • Look_A_Squirrel

    It seems pretty evident that the graduation from hunter gatherer to bronze age to iron age had more to do with the introduction of more advanced people than to the genius of a few from the existing population.

  • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

    They’re making many large projections from a small set of individual samples. Still, there may be something useful in it. What I know is that it was the expansion of the concept of animal husbandry and the expanded use of cattle that led to the use of cow’s milk and once that occurred, the populations were able to expand. The development of lactose tolerance is what is responsible for European survival and success.

    They’re talking about Scythians and Celts as the two groups apart from the hunter/gatherers. They found ONE hunter/gatherer that seems to have had blue eyes, so they are projecting that they all did. They don’t know if that one had already mixed with Neandertha’s (I think so) and got that trait from them. The book, “The Ten Thousand Year Explosion” is an interesting one for this subject.

    Anyway, the left will interpret this as PROOF that whites are not “white.” I am sure that a study of all other groups but sub-Shaharan Africans will show that people moved around. It’s been called genetic drift. It happened really slowly and only been sped up recently to a point that its benefits have become lost and the danger is that dna will become so generalized that no further advancement of humans will be possible. In fact, an argument could be made that with increased mixing, we’re going backwards.