Ancient DNA analysis and the Indo-European dispersal

Author(s): David Anthony

Year: 2017


New methods for analyzing ancient human DNA are introducing a new "molecular archaeology". aDNA permits us to detect mating networks, to see ancestry evolve across generations as populations expanded or died out, to track migrants and their genes across geographic space, and to say whether and with what frequency migrants and the indigenous population mated at the destination. aDNA analysis is an unprecedented tool for the study of ancient migrations, kinship, and biological adaptation. This paper reviews recent studies of the aDNA of more than 300 prehistoric people from Europe, the steppes, the Caucasus, and Central Asia that revealed a massive migration of steppe pastoralists westward into agricultural central Europe and eastward to the Altai Mountains, previously occupied by foragers, dated about 3000-2500 BC. The dispersal of the Indo-European languages can be dated independently to the same period, after the invention of the wheel and before the IE languages differentiated in the 2nd millennium BC. Genetics suggest a delay in intermarriage at the destination, and archaeology suggests an initial material contrast, so language shift in agricultural Europe might not have happened with the initial migration but developed later after the mobility patterns and resources of the two populations converged.

Cite this Record

Ancient DNA analysis and the Indo-European dispersal. David Anthony. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430448)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16052