BERLIN – Europeans appear to be more closely related than previously thought.
Scientists who compared DNA samples from people in different parts of the continent found that most had common ancestors living just 1,000 years ago.
The results confirm decade-old mathematical models, but will nevertheless come as a surprise to Europeans accustomed to thinking of ancient nations composed of distinct ethnic groups like “Germans,” “Irish” or “Serbs.”
“What’s remarkable about this is how closely everyone is related to each other,” said Graham Coop of the University of California, Davis, who co-wrote the study published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Biology.
Coop and his fellow author Peter Ralph of the University of Southern California used a database containing more than 2,250 genetic samples to look for shared DNA segments that would point to distant shared relatives.
While the number of common genetic ancestors is greater the closer people are to each other, even individuals living 2,000 miles apart had identical sections of DNA that can be traced back roughly to the Middle Ages.
The findings indicate that there was a steady flow of genetic material between countries as far apart as Turkey and Britain, even after the great population movements of the first millennium A.D. such as the Saxon and Viking invasions of Britain.