1 March 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

A new study attributes Japanese, Korean and Turkish languages all to a common ancestor in northeastern China

According to a new study, modern languages ranging from Japanese and Korean to Turkish and Mongolian may have had a common origin from ancient China some 9,000 years ago.

The findings detailed on Wednesday show that hundreds of millions of individuals who speak what the researchers term Trans Eurasian languages spanning a 5,000-mile span share a common genetic ancestor (8,000 km).

An international team of scientists has concluded that the Trans-Eurasian languages, also known as Altai, can be traced back to early millet growers in the Liao Valley in what is now Northeast China and that its spread was driven by agriculture.

The findings show how humankind’s adoption of agriculture after the Ice Age fueled the spread of some of the world’s main language groups. As hunter-gatherers converted to an agricultural existence, millet was an important early crop.

The origins and degree to which the five groups that make up the Transeurasian family are related have long been an area of contention among scholars.

There are 98 Trans Eurasian languages. Numerous Turkic languages, such as Turkish in portions of Europe, Anatolia, Central Asia, and Siberia, as well as various Mongolic languages, such as Mongolian in Central and Northeast Asia, and various Tungusic languages in Manchuria and Siberia, are among them.

Distribution of Transeurasian languages in the past and in the present. Photo: Nature
Distribution of Transeurasian languages in the past and in the present. Photo: Nature

Based on genetic and archaeological evidence, as well as linguistic analysis, the researchers concluded that the languages spread north and west into Siberia and the steppes, and east into Korea and Japan as farmers moved across northeast Asia — a conclusion that challenges the traditional “pastoralist hypothesis,” which proposed that nomads led the dispersal away from the eastern steppe.

The research underscored the complex beginnings of modern populations and cultures. 

“Accepting that the roots of one’s language, culture or people lie beyond the present national boundaries is a kind of surrender of identity, which some people are not yet prepared to make,” said comparative linguist Martine Robbeets, leader of the Archaeolinguistic Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and lead author.

“But the science of human history shows us that the history of all languages, cultures, and peoples is one of extended interaction and mixture,” he added.

The researchers devised a dataset of vocabulary concepts for the 98 languages, identified a core of inherited words related to agriculture, and fashioned a language family tree.

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History archaeologist and study co-author Mark Hudson, the researchers compared artifacts from 255 archaeological sites in China, Japan, the Korean peninsula, and the Russian Far East, looking for similarities in pottery, stone tools, and plant and animal remains. They also took into account the dates of 269 old agricultural remnants found at various locations.

Farmers in northeastern China ultimately supplemented millet with rice and wheat, an agricultural package that was passed down when these communities went to the Korean peninsula about 1300 BC and then to Japan around 1000 BC, according to the study.

For example, a woman’s remains found in Yokchido in South Korea had 95 percent ancestry from Japan’s ancient Jomon people, indicating her recent ancestors had migrated over the sea. 

“By advancing new evidence from ancient DNA, our research thus confirms recent findings that Japanese and Korean populations have West Liao River ancestry, whereas it contradicts previous claims that there is no genetic correlate of the Transeurasian language family,” the researchers said.

The researchers from Britain, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, the Netherlands and the United States published their findings in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Related Articles

The 1,800-year-old ‘Iron Legion’ Roman Legionary Base uncovered at the foot of Tel Megiddo

14 February 2024

14 February 2024

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced that a recent excavation at the foot of Tel Megiddo, near the ancient village...

The colored skeletons of Çatalhöyük provide insight into the burial rituals of a fascinating society that lived 9000 years ago

18 March 2022

18 March 2022

New research provides new insights into how the inhabitants of the “oldest city in the world” in Çatalhöyük (Turkey) buried...

Using Algorithms, Researchers Reassemble Jewish Text Lost Centuries Ago

27 January 2022

27 January 2022

Using new technology, researchers were able to comb a 19th-century text for the original study of a Bible interpretation attributed...

8000 years old fingerprint and ceramic production workshop found in İzmir Ulucak Mound

22 August 2022

22 August 2022

It was understood that the structure unearthed during the ongoing excavations in the 8850-year-old Ulucak Mound (Ulucak Höyük), the oldest...

2,000-Year-Old Iron Age and Roman Treasures Found in Wales Could Point to an Unknown Roman Settlement

12 May 2023

12 May 2023

A metal detectorist found a pile of exceptionally preserved Roman and Iron Age objects buried 2,000 years ago in a...

Roman gilded silver fragment uncovered in Norfolk baffles researchers

27 March 2023

27 March 2023

In Norfolk, a metal detector uncovered an ancient Roman fragment made of gilded silver. The piece was clearly a part...

Genetic Analysis Reveals A Woman As The Highest-Ranking Individual In Copper Age Spain: ‘Ivory Lady’

6 July 2023

6 July 2023

According to a study published Thursday (July 6) in the journal Scientific Reports, the highest-status individual in ancient Copper Age...

A 1,300-year-old necklace is the ‘richest of its type ever uncovered in Britain’

6 December 2022

6 December 2022

Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) archaeologists have found a “once-in-a-lifetime” 1,300-year-old gold and gemstone necklace dating back to 630-670 AD...

Analysis of 13,000-Year-Old Bones Reveals Violent Raids in Prehistoric ‘Jebel Sahaba’

28 May 2021

28 May 2021

Since its discovery in the 1960s, the 13-millennium-old Jebel Sahaba cemetery (Nile Valley, Sudan) has been regarded as one of...

The inhabitants of Pınarbaşı Höyük in central Turkey may be the ancestors of the Boncuklu Höyük and Çatalhöyük neolithic human communities

27 July 2022

27 July 2022

The Department of Excavations and Researchs, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Turkey, attracted...

A Roman bridge from the Republican era was discovered on Via Tiburtina

27 February 2022

27 February 2022

The remains of a rare Republican-era bridge have been discovered on the 12th kilometer of the Via Tiburtina, the ancient...

The 3,200-year-old perfume of Tapputi, the first female chemist in history, came to life again

24 July 2022

24 July 2022

One of the scent formulas written in Akkadian on clay tablets by Tapputi, known as the world’s first female perfumer...

Comb and gold hair-ring dating back more than 3,000 years unearthed in south Wales

14 July 2023

14 July 2023

Archeologists in south Wales, have unearthed a golden hair ring and the oldest wooden comb ever found in the U.K....

The latest excavations in the ancient city of Dülük will shed light on the history of different religions

11 October 2021

11 October 2021

It is thought that the ancient city of Dülük, one of the 25 oldest settlements in the world, will shed...

China exhibits 2,000-year-old artifacts discovered in Guangzhou

12 August 2021

12 August 2021

On August 10, the National Museum of China launched an exhibition featuring archaeological finds from ancient China’s Qin (221–207 BC)...