Friday, December 14, 2012

Romani people come from India

Scientists collaborating from many European universities have completed a genome-wide study to trace the history of the European Romani population, commonly referred to as "gypsies."  Previous computational modeling of the Indo-European language family suggested that the Romani people's language originated somewhere in India (though the methodology of the study in question remains questionable from a historical linguistic standpoint).  This genome study was able to corroborate an Indian origin, particularly a northwestern one, and to pinpoint their departure from India to about 1500 years ago.

Based on 800,000 SNPs from a sample of 152 Romani people, as well as pre-existing SNP data for Europeans, Indians, Central Asians, and inhabitants of the Middle East, the researchers were able to study the Romani migration path in detail.  They found that the Romani generally stayed together on their journey toward Europe, mating only moderately with the local populations and suffering from two population bottlenecks before beginning to disperse once they reached the Balkans.

Once the Romani dispersed throughout Europe, different pockets mixed with the local European populations to varying degrees.  The Welsh Romani have mixed to a great degree; the easter European Romani mostly kept to themselves until recently; and the Portugues, Spanish, and Lithuanian Romani seem to have mixed with the non-Romani Europeans in the past but then started isolating themselves again more recently. 

This analysis was a great first step in beginning to understand the history of a marginalized group and will hopefully help in giving the Romani a sense of identity as they continue to overcome their status as social outcasts.

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