Massive migration from the East shifted Irish gene pool

WASHINGTON — Just over 5,000 years ago, humans in what is now Ireland had dark hair and features, traits shared with ancestors of mostly Middle Eastern origin.

But 1,000 years later, the land was full of blue-eyed people. Scientists believe the quick transition, in evolutionary terms, may have been caused by a huge migration.

In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archeologists from Queen’s University Belfast said they sequenced the genes of four ancient Irish denizens to trace their origins.


Researchers have long suspected that many peoples converged in Ireland. But study author Dan Bradley of Trinity College Dublin said his team was surprised at how different a Neolithic woman’s genes were from three Bronze Age men whose bones were found.

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Based on the men’s DNA, the researchers suspect that the men’s ancestors came from an area of Eastern Europe near the Black Sea.