BASQUE ‘genetic singularity’ confirmed by largest-ever human DNA study in Barcelona
Research conducted on the DNA of more than 2,000 people, both living and dead, has confirmed the “genetic uniqueness of the Basques” in Europe, according to lead biologist David Comas. Reporting from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology of Barcelona on the largest study ever of its kind, Comas claims that the uniqueness of Basques stems from their relative isolation since the Iron Age, some 2,500 years ago.
The evolution of the Basque community has divided scientists for generations, with the former president, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, announcing publically that Basques “have existed for 7,000 years” as a separate entity. In the 1860s, a French anthropologist, Paul Broca, famously broke into the Zarautz graveyard and stole several skulls to study what he believed at the time to be a primitive race.
Now, the acclaimed Basque geneticist Inigo Olalde believes the new study proves that the Basques are “genetically different” from the rest of Spain, but not as much as what might previously have been believed.
“Decades ago it was said that the Basques were the continuation of the hunter-gatherers and then it turned out that it was totally untrue. Then it was said that they were a continuation of the Neolithic that came later and it has also been seen that this is false”, explained the geneticist.
The new study, published in the journal Current Biology on Thursday, April 1, puts forward a much simpler explanation: the different language of the reason simply acted as a “cultural barrier” from the rest of the country since the days of the Iron Age. Comas, who analysed the DNA of 190 people whose four grandparents were all born in the same area, actually discovered that they differed genetically from each other, suggesting that the different dialects even with the Basque Country itself led to a certain amount of internal isolation.
“The rest of the Iberian populations began to differ from the Basque populations from the Iron Age onwards because they began to have genetic influences from other populations, such as Muslims and Romans. It is the Basques who are frozen in time,” the experts concluded.