Gypsies settled in Europe 1,500 years ago but they didn't arrive in the UK until five centuries ago
Romani population rivals that of several countries including
The community has had an influence on European cultureThey are still 'discriminated' against across Europe
20:17 GMT, 8 December 2012
Gypsy children in the township of Tandarei, in south-eastern Romania, pictured
Despite being shunned as disruptive outsiders across huge swathes of the continent gypsies have European roots stretching more than a millennium ago, research has found.
The Romani, Europe's largest minority group with approximately 11 million people, speak a mosaic of languages and practice different religions and lifestyle – but all share a common if complex past.
Genetic scientists have now found they began their migration into Europe 1,500 years ago, much earlier than previously thought, from a single population in northern India.
Despite their beginnings the size of
the Romani population now rivals that of several countries, including
Greece, Portugal, and Belgium.
They first arrived through the Balkans and began dispersing outwards from there 900 years ago, the team found.
They first arrived in the UK in 1513, the team believe.
Professor David Comas, of the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva at Universitat Pompeu
Fabra in Spain, said:'We
were interested in exploring the population history of European Romani
because they constitute an important fraction of the European
population, but their marginalised situation in many countries also
seems to have affected their visibility in scientific studies.'
The graph shows the Romani population throughout Europe. The blue numbers indicate when the communities are thought to have settled in the country
The Romani people lack written
historical records on their origins and dispersal so the team gathered genome-wide data from 13 Romani groups collected
across Europe to confirm an Indian origin for European Romani,
consistent with earlier linguistic studies.
Gypsies on screen
My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding
4's series followed those marrying Gypsy-style in Britain.It had audiences of 7 million, and spawned spinoffs including Thelma's gypsy girls which was criticised by the stars for making them look 'tarty and stupid'.
Guy Ritchie's 2000 blockbuster set in London's east end starred Brad Pitt as Irish Gypsy Mickey O'Neil, a bare-knuckle boxing champion who dupes the gangsters who find his camp deserted when they go to avenge him.
And the violins stopped playing
The 1988 film follows a small group of gypsies escaping the Nazi's during World War II. The group, including south from Poland through Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
The study in journal Current Biology offers
the first genome-wide perspective on Romani origins and demographic
The authors claim that their findings could have implications for various disciplines including human evolution and health sciences.
'From a genome-wide perspective, Romani people share a common and unique history that consists of two elements – the roots in northwestern India and the admixture with non-Romani Europeans accumulating with different magnitudes during the out-of-India migration across Europe,' co-author Professor Manfred Kayser from Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands said.
'Our study clearly illustrates that understanding the Romani's genetic legacy is necessary to complete the genetic characterisation of Europeans as a whole, with implications for various fields, from human evolution to the health sciences.'
In the UK Gypsies were originally thought to have come from Egypt and early European references describe wandering, nomadic communities who were known for their music and skill with horses.
The earliest references to gypsies come from Spain in the 15th Century.
They are traditionally thought of as nomadic groups and have suffered centuries of discrimination, including extermination by some 20th-century fascist regimes including HItler and Stalin.
Campaign groups the European Roma Rights Centre in Hungary say that the persecution and discrimination is still rife against the group which are now found to have settled in the sixth century.
Robert Kushner, chairman of the board of the ERRC, said: 'I think Roma has been discriminated against in Europe almost since their arrival and they continue to suffer discrimination and structural poverty throughout Europe today.
'The vast majority of them are now settled. There are of course a great number of migrants but it is a different phenomenon, these are people seeking better lives because of discrimination, they're looking for jobs, looking for places to put their children through school.
Lavinia with her groom Edward and bridesmaids, pictured, featured in Channel 4 series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding when they wed the in small Irish town of Rathkeale – the spiritual home of Irish travellers
'I think regardless of how long they have been in Europe the problems of discrimination and poverty should be addressed.
'In some countries Roma will compromise 25 per cent of the work force in the near future so for a whole number of reasons – economic, moral, and for legal obligations to human rights – the discrimination should be addressed.'
Despite their longstanding roots the communities are still segregated and subjected to 'hate speech' even by public figures, Mr Kushner said.
The communities have recently been targeted both in France, during Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency, and Italy, under Silvio Berlusconi, and suffered from forced evictions.
But despite their persecution Gypsys' have had a major influence on European culture including influencing Flamenco dancing.
Mr Kushner said: 'We see their influence on many forms of culture.'