Author: David Reich, D. Phil., Professor of Genetics Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School
Reich argued that, based on currently available ancient DNA, all of the main Indo-European daughter branches may have expanded from the Yamnaya culture on the Pontic-Caspian Steppe in ancient Russia via massive migrations soon after the Neolithic period ∼4,500 years ago. Yamnaya is the archaeological Russian culture responsible for spreading "Late-Proto-Indo-European" languages. The ‘steppe hypothesis’ by Reich et al. proposes that early Indo-European speakers spread into Europe after the invention of wheeled vehicles.
Beginning in 2010, it became practical to sequence whole genomes from DNA extracted from ancient human boness, and to analyze the data to understand changes in biology over time. Since that time then, the amount of ancient DNA data has increased at an extraordinary rate, with the number of samples with at least one-fold genome coverage being 5 five in 2013, 18 in 2014, and 116 in 2015. Dr. Reich will begin his lecture by describing how present-day Europeans derive from a fusion highly divergent ancestral populations as different from each other as are Europeans and East Asians. He will then summarize the history of modern humans in Europe over the approximately 45,000 years since they first arrived. He will next describe the spread of farming populations from the Near East over the last twelve thousand years. He will finally conclude by describing explaining how the analysis of ancient DNA has led to. Some of the insights about human biological change over time.
"Discovering Human Ancestors in the Cradle of Humankind" was presented by Dr. John Hawks (University of Wisconsin, Madison) as the keynote address of the Biology Leadership Community conference on March 5, 2016.
Can language spread be modeled using computational techniques designed to trace the diffusion of viruses? As recently announced in the New York Times, a team of biologists claims to have solved one of the major riddles of human prehistory, the origins of the Indo-European language family, by applying methodologies from epidemiology. In actuality, this research, published in Science, does nothing of the kind. As the talk presented here shows, the assumptions on which it rests are demonstrably false, the data that it uses are woefully incomplete and biased, and the model that it employs generates error at every turn, undermining the knowledge generated by more than two centuries of research in historical linguistics and threatening our understanding of the human past. Originally published december 2012
David Anthony, Wheeled vehicles, horses, and Indo-European origins Paper presented at the seminar "Tracing the Indo-Europeans: Origin and migration", organized by Roots of Europe - Language, Culture, and Migrations, University of Copenhagen, 12-14 December 2012
It seems clear that the ancestor of the Anatolian subgroup (which includes Hittite) separated from the other dialects of PIE first, so from a cladistic point of view Anatolian is half the IE family (e.g., Jasanoff 2003). Within the non-Anatolian half, it appears that the ancestor of the Tocharian subgroup (whose attested languages were spoken in Xinjiang, today in western China, until approximately the tenth century ce) separated from the other dialects before the latter had diverged much (e.g., Winter 1998, Ringe 2000). It follows that an item inherited by two or more of the daughter subgroups can be reconstructed for “early” PIE only if it is attested in at least one Anatolian language and at least one non-Anatolian language, and such an item can be reconstructed for the ancestor of the non-Anatolian subgroups only if it is attested in one or both of the Tocharian languages and in some other IE language.