Agilent Helps Unlock the Origins of Language

How did human beings first develop ancient language?  Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) is considered the root of modern languages throughout Europe, Asia and America.  But where did it originate?

There are two competing theories.  The Kurgan hypothesis argues that PIE developed after the invention of the wheel (some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago) among nomadic herders in the northern steppes of Ukraine.  The Anatolian hypothesis argues that PIE developed much earlier – some 8,500 years ago – with the first farmers in Turkey.

One way scientists have attempted to settle this debate is by study the migration patterns of ancient humans.  And now, DNA analysis is making a contribution.

Previously, genome-wide sequencing of DNA on a large scale was both time- and cost-prohibitive.  More recently, target enrichment technologies have enabled researchers to isolate the specific genome sections that need to be examined.  This has reduced the scope of sequencing required by a factor of more than 250-fold.

As a result, an international team of scientists has been able to generate full genome-wide data from 69 Eurasians who lived between 8,000 to 3,000 years ago.  This is more than twice as many subjects as has ever previously been studied.

By comparing genetic signatures, the scientists found persistent steppe ancestry in all of the ancient Central Europeans studied, as well is in present-day Europeans.  While the language debate remains far from settled, these results help support the steppe hypothesis as the origin of at least some modern European languages.

The scientists used a variety of sequencing and target enrichment technologies for their research, including Agilent reagents, an Agilent Bioanalyzer system and Agilent DNA Polymerase enzymes.

For more information go to: