By SINDYA N. BHANOO
“Some genetic studies have also pointed to India before, but it was not clear what part of India,” said an author of the study, David Comas, an evolutionary biologist at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.
Dr. Comas led the study with Manfred Kayser from Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands. They and other colleagues report their findings in a recent issue of Current Biology.
The researchers studied 800,000 genetic markers in more than 150 Roma from 13 groups and compared them with people from other ethnic groups. Dr. Comas and his colleagues found that the Roma are also genetically similar to other Europeans.
“Fifteen hundred years ago these people went to the Balkans and then spread all over Europe,” Dr. Comas said. “And they have mixed with Europeans during different periods throughout.”
At about 11 million, the Roma are Europe’s largest minority, and are frequently the subject of political dispute in the European Union. The marginalized group is still nomadic, often building illegal camps.
“This is an example of one minority that has been ignored in most genetic studies,” Dr. Comas said. “What we have now is an idea of the origins and genetic structure of this population.”