Study Confirms Basque "Genetic Singularity"

El Pais reported that researchers at Pompeu Fabra university (UPF) in Barcelona confirmed the “genetic singularity” of the Basques in Europe in the largest-ever study of almost 2,000 DNA samples. The investigation found this genetic difference only began to emerge 2,500 years ago in the Iron Age. The study was published in Current Biology.

Although Basque genetic differences are noticeable, the study shows, this is the result of centuries of isolation and inbreeding potentially caused by unique Basque dialects that have no crossover with other European languages, or any other living language today.

According to the study, the Basque language limited their interaction with other communities who couldn’t understand them. “Our analyses support the notion that genetic uniqueness of Basques cannot be attributed to a different origin relative to other Iberian populations but instead to a reduced and irregular external gene flow since the Iron Age,” the study says.

This may be down to the peculiarity of the Basque language, Euskara, which has no roots in any other living language anywhere in the world. David Comas, lead author of the study and professor of Biological Anthropology at the UPF Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, and his group analyzed the DNA of 190 people whose four grandparents were born in the same area. The results show that even within the Basque Country itself, DNA pools are concentrated in small regions that coincide with the historical distribution of the various dialects of Basque.

The hypothesis of Comas’ team is that the language was also an internal obstacle due to the existence of dialects that were not mutually intelligible. The current standardized Basque language, called Batua, was only developed and codified in the 1960’s.

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