Starting 5000 years ago, the Yamnaya embarked on a violent conquest of Europe. Now genetic analysis tells their tale for the first time
Source: New Scientist
THE iconic sarsen stones at Stonehenge were erected some 4500 years ago. Although the monument’s original purpose is still disputed, we now know that within a few centuries it became a memorial to a vanished people. By then, almost every Briton, from the south coast of England to the north-east tip of Scotland, had been wiped out by incomers. It isn’t clear exactly why they disappeared so rapidly. But a picture of the people who replaced them is emerging.
The migrants’ ultimate source was a group of livestock herders called the Yamnaya who occupied the Eurasian steppe north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountains. Britain wasn’t their only destination. Between 5000 and 4000 years ago, the Yamnaya and their descendants colonised swathes of Europe, leaving a genetic legacy that persists to this day. Their arrival coincided with profound social and cultural changes. Burial practices shifted dramatically, a warrior class appeared, and there seems to have been a sharp upsurge in lethal violence. “I’ve become increasingly convinced there must have been a kind of genocide,” says Kristian Kristiansen at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. As he and others piece together the story, one question resounds: were the Yamnaya the most murderous people in history?
See more at the New Scientist page