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1 August 2003
Genetics helps scientists determine Basque origins

Genetics is helping researchers trace the migration of the Basque people, a culture that originated in East Africa tens of thousands of years ago. By first tracking the female gene back 150,000 years to East Africa, scientists then followed the male Y chromosome to determine human whereabouts.
     As Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe, adjunct professor for the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nexada, Reno (USA), explained at a recent presentation at Northeastern Nevada Museum as part of the National Basque Festival in Elko, "The Basque came out of East Africa 50,000 or so years ago and passed through the Middle East."
     This explains why some Middle Eastern cities have names that could be Basque in origin, like Ur, Uruk, and Mari, which is the name of a Basque goddess.
     According to Mallea-Olaetxe, linguists have long suspected such an idea since an old—now dead—language from Central Asia, Burushaski, "looks suspiciously like Basque". Genetic research is proving the linguists right.
     After inhabiting Central Asia for about 10,000 years, Basque ancestors migrated to both the Americas and Western Europe, where they settled—and still live—in France and Spain. The cave paintings in southern France and northern Spain were likely painted by Basque ancestors 10,000 to 30,000 years ago, says Mallea-Olaetxe, which "fits perfectly" the timeline of their migration.
     Since DNA research has also shown that the Celtic people’s genes are almost identical to the Basque’s, it is believed they may have migrated together to Western Europe 30,000 years ago.
     Mallea-Olaetxe states that genetic research into Basque origins has been ongoing over the past decade or so; however, their conclusions have only been made public recently.

Source: SFGate.com (9 July 2003)

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