Genome diversity in the Neolithic Globular Amphorae culture and the spread of Indo-European languages

Proc Biol Sci. 2017 Nov 29;284(1867):20171540. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1540.


It is unclear whether Indo-European languages in Europe spread from the Pontic steppes in the late Neolithic, or from Anatolia in the Early Neolithic. Under the former hypothesis, people of the Globular Amphorae culture (GAC) would be descended from Eastern ancestors, likely representing the Yamnaya culture. However, nuclear (six individuals typed for 597 573 SNPs) and mitochondrial (11 complete sequences) DNA from the GAC appear closer to those of earlier Neolithic groups than to the DNA of all other populations related to the Pontic steppe migration. Explicit comparisons of alternative demographic models via approximate Bayesian computation confirmed this pattern. These results are not in contrast to Late Neolithic gene flow from the Pontic steppes into Central Europe. However, they add nuance to this model, showing that the eastern affinities of the GAC in the archaeological record reflect cultural influences from other groups from the East, rather than the movement of people.

Keywords: Indo-European; Neolithic; ancient DNA; approximate Bayesian computation; migration; population genomics.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Archaeology
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • DNA, Ancient / analysis
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Europe
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome, Human*
  • History, Ancient
  • Human Migration / history*
  • Humans
  • Language / history*


  • DNA, Ancient
  • DNA, Mitochondrial