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Occasional migrations north through the Caucasus to Yamnaya grasslands fits a scenario in which the ancient homeland of Indo-European language lay among Anatolian farmers, the researchers speculate.

If they’re right, they have resolved one of the thorniest issues in the study of languages.

That finding further underscores the genetic separation of Maykop farmers from Yamnaya herders, who don’t share any DNA with Anatolian cultivators.

Evidence of scant mating between hill-dwelling Maykop farmers and steppe-dwelling Yamnaya herders is “a big surprise,” says archaeologist Volker Heyd of the University of Helsinki, who did not participate in the study.

But the long-debated origins of Indo-European tongues remain uncertain.

Maykop people excavated in Yamnaya territory came from a small, isolated population that shows no signs of herder ancestry, contends archaeologist David Anthony of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N. “It just emphasizes that Maykop people chose not to mate with Yamnaya or pre-Yamnaya people.” Without regular marriages across the two cultures, Maykop people would not have transferred their language to the Yamnaya, Anthony contends.

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A majority of Yamnaya ancestry came from Caucasus-based hunter-gatherers and a minority of Yamnaya ancestry — between 10 and 18 percent — was inherited from eastern European farmers, the scientists estimate.

Those farmers may have belonged to Europe’s more than 5,000-year-old Globular Amphora Culture, named for its globe-shaped pottery.

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