FOUND: A New Group of European Ancestors - Atlas Obscura
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FOUND: A New Group of European Ancestors

replica of a 5,000 year old shoe

A replica of a 5,000-year-old shoe from the Alps (Photo: Josef Chlachula/Wikimedia)

Where did Europeans come from?

As genome sequencing becomes easier, geneticists have been puzzling together the history of European ancestry—but there has always been one piece missing. Now, researchers publishing in Nature Communications have found a new group of hunter-gatherers who came from the Caucasus region.

Previously, researchers had identified three groups of European ancestors. There were hunters who came to the region at least 40,000 years ago, well before the Ice Age began, and spread from Spain to Hungary. Many years later, after the Ice Age, farmers from the Middle East came to Europe and added their DNA to the mix, about 7,000 years ago. And most recently, 5,000 years ago, a group of herders, called the Yamnaya, came from the east. 

But scientists had not entirely untangled the genetic history of the Yamnaya. The new research shows that they descended partially from a group of hunter-gatherers that spent the Ice Age isolated in the Caucasus region, before making their way west. Researchers are calling this newly discovered group ”the fourth major strand of ancient European ancestry.”

Bonus finds: An island where Greeks and Spartans fought2,600 undelivered letters from the 17th centurya sneaky alligator

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.