Study: Greeks Are Closely Linked to the Mythic Mycenaeans

August 4, 2017 Updated: August 4, 2017

Whether today’s Greeks are related to the ancient Mycenaeans who inhabited mainland Greece and the Aegean islands from around 1,400 B.C. to 1,300 B.C. has always been a question.

Historians say the Mycenaeans were the first Bronze Age society to emerge on the European mainland, and built an advanced society before mysteriously vanishing. Theories abound as to what led to the Mycenaeans’ plunge into what is known as the Greek Dark Age, but suffice to say that it’s not clear what happened to them.

Apparently the Mycenaeans, founders of the citadel Mycenae in modern day Mykines, live on in the genes of today’s Greeks, a new DNA study has found. And more so than those who came to the region later.

The study, published in the journal Nature, took DNA from 19 ancient people: four Mycenaeans dating from 1,700 B.C. to 1,200 B.C., 10 Minoans from 2,900 B.C. to 1,700 B.C., and five people from other early Bronze Age cultures in Greece and Turkey.

The study compared the genomes of those with 334 other ancient people from around the world and with 30 modern Greeks.

“Modern Greeks resemble the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution of the Early Neolithic [around 7,000 B.C.] ancestry,” the study says.

The Mycenaeans are also closely related to the more ancient Minoans, a people who inhabited the island of Crete from between 2,600 B.C. to 1,400 B.C. Like the three-quarters of their ancestry came from the first Neolithic farmers of western Anatolia and the Aegean, in what is now western Turkey.