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Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe


We generated genome-wide data from 69 Europeans who lived between 8,000–3,000 years ago by enriching ancient DNA libraries for a target set of almost 400,000 polymorphisms. Enrichment of these positions decreases the sequencing required for genome-wide ancient DNA analysis by a median of around 250-fold, allowing us to study an order of magnitude more individuals than previous studies1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and to obtain new insights about the past. We show that the populations of Western and Far Eastern Europe followed opposite trajectories between 8,000–5,000 years ago. At the beginning of the Neolithic period in Europe, 8,000–7,000 years ago, closely related groups of early farmers appeared in Germany, Hungary and Spain, different from indigenous hunter-gatherers, whereas Russia was inhabited by a distinctive population of hunter-gatherers with high affinity to a 24,000-year-old Siberian6. By 6,000–5,000 years ago, farmers throughout much of Europe had more hunter-gatherer ancestry than their predecessors, but in Russia, the Yamnaya steppe herders of this time were descended not only from the preceding eastern European hunter-gatherers, but also from a population of Near Eastern ancestry. Western and Eastern Europe came into contact 4,500 years ago, as the Late Neolithic Corded Ware people from Germany traced 75% of their ancestry to the Yamnaya, documenting a massive migration into the heartland of Europe from its eastern periphery. This steppe ancestry persisted in all sampled central Europeans until at least 3,000 years ago, and is ubiquitous in present-day Europeans. These results provide support for a steppe origin9 of at least some of the Indo-European languages of Europe.

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Figure 1: Location and SNP coverage of samples included in this study.
Figure 2: Population transformations in Europe.
Figure 3: Admixture proportions.

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Primary accessions

European Nucleotide Archive

Data deposits

The aligned sequences are available through the European Nucleotide Archive under accession number PRJEB8448. The Human Origins genotype dataset including ancient individuals can be found at (


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We thank P. Bellwood, J. Burger, P. Heggarty, M. Lipson, C. Renfrew, J. Diamond, S.Pääbo, R. Pinhasi and P. Skoglund for critical comments, and the Initiative for the Science of the Human Past at Harvard for organizing a workshop around the issues touched on by this paper. We thank S. Pääbo for support for establishing the ancient DNA facilities in Boston, and P. Skoglund for detecting the presence of two related individuals in our data set. We thank L. Orlando, T. S. Korneliussen, and C. Gamba for help in obtaining data. We thank Agilent Technologies and G. Frommer for help in developing the capture reagents. We thank C. Der Sarkissian, G. Valverde, L. Papac and B. Nickel for wet laboratory support. We thank archaeologists V. Dresely, R. Ganslmeier, O. Balanvosky, J. Ignacio Royo Guillén, A. Osztás, V. Majerik, T. Paluch, K. Somogyi and V.Voicsek for sharing samples and discussion about archaeological context. This research was supported by an Australian Research Council grant to W.H. and B.L. (DP130102158), and German Research Foundation grants to K.W.A. (Al 287/7-1 and 7-3, Al 287/10-1 and Al 287/14-1) and to H.M. (Me 3245/1-1 and 1-3). D.R. was supported by US National Science Foundation HOMINID grant BCS-1032255, US National Institutes of Health grant GM100233, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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Authors and Affiliations



W.H., N.P., N.R., J.K., K.W.A. and D.R. supervised the study. W.H., E.B., C.E., M.F., S.F., R.G.P., F.H., V.K., A.K., M.K., P.K., H.M., O.M., V.M., N.N., S.L.P., R.R., M.A.R.G., C.R., A.S.-N., J.W., J.K., D.B., D.A., A.C., K.W.A. and D.R. assembled archaeological material, W.H., I.L., N.P., N.R., S.M., A.M. and D.R. analysed genetic data. I.L., N.P. and D.R. developed methods using f statistics for inferring admixture proportions. W.H., N.R., B.L., G.B., S.N., E.H., K.S. and A.M. performed wet laboratory ancient DNA work. I.L., N.R., S.M., B.L., Q.F., M.M. and D.R. developed the 390k capture reagent. W.H., I.L. and D.R. wrote the manuscript with help from all co-authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Reich.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Outgroup f3 statistic f3(Dinka; X, Y), measuring the degree of shared drift among pairs of ancient individuals.

Extended Data Figure 2 Modelling Corded Ware as a mixture of N = 1, 2, or 3 ancestral populations.

a, The left column shows a histogram of raw f4 statistic residuals and on the right Z-scores for the best-fitting (lowest squared 2-norm of the residuals, or resnorm) model at each N. b, The data on the left show resnorm and on the right show the maximum |Z| score change for different N. c, resnorm of different N = 2 models. The set of outgroups used in this analysis in the terminology of Supplementary Information section 9 is ‘World Foci 15 + Ancients’.

Extended Data Figure 3 Modelling Europeans as mixtures of increasing complexity: N = 1 (EN), N = 2 (EN, WHG), N = 3 (EN, WHG, Yamnaya), N = 4 (EN, WHG, Yamnaya, Nganasan), N = 5 (EN, WHG, Yamnaya, Nganasan, BedouinB).

The residual norm of the fitted model (Supplementary Information section 9) and its changes are indicated.

Extended Data Figure 4 Geographic distribution of archaeological cultures and graphic illustration of proposed population movements / turnovers discussed in the main text.

a, Proposed routes of migration by early farmers into Europe 9,000−7000 years ago. b, Resurgence of hunter-gatherer ancestry during the Middle Neolithic 7,000−5,000 years ago. c, Arrival of steppe ancestry in central Europe during the Late Neolithic 4,500 years ago. White arrows indicate the two possible scenarios of the arrival of Indo-European language groups. Symbols of samples are identical to those in Fig. 1.

Extended Data Table 1 Number of ancient Eurasian modern human samples screened in genome-wide studies to date
Extended Data Table 2 Summary of the archaeological context for the 69 newly reported samples
Extended Data Table 3 Pairwise FST for all ancient groups with ≥ 2 individuals, present-day Europeans with ≥ 10 individuals, and selected other groups

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

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Haak, W., Lazaridis, I., Patterson, N. et al. Massive migration from the steppe was a source for Indo-European languages in Europe. Nature 522, 207–211 (2015).

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