More ancient DNA evidence of Indo-European mass migrations

Population genomics of Bronze Age Eurasia (figures; supplementary information):
The Bronze Age of Eurasia (around 3000–1000 BC) was a period of major cultural changes. However, there is debate about whether these changes resulted from the circulation of ideas or from human migrations, potentially also facilitating the spread of languages and certain phenotypic traits. We investigated this by using new, improved methods to sequence low-coverage genomes from 101 ancient humans from across Eurasia. We show that the Bronze Age was a highly dynamic period involving large-scale population migrations and replacements, responsible for shaping major parts of present-day demographic structure in both Europe and Asia. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesized spread of Indo-European languages during the Early Bronze Age. We also demonstrate that light skin pigmentation in Europeans was already present at high frequency in the Bronze Age, but not lactose tolerance, indicating a more recent onset of positive selection on lactose tolerance than previously thought.
Dienekes links to the raw data:
Investigation of Bronze Age in Eurasia by sequencing from 101 ancient human remains.

The Bronze Age (BA) of Eurasia (c. 3,000-1,000 years BC, 3-1 ka BC) was a period of major cultural changes. Earlier hunter-gathering and farming cultures in Europe and Asia were replaced by cultures associated with completely new perceptions and technologies inspired by early urban civilization. It remains debated if these cultural shifts simply represented the circulation of ideas or resulted from large-scale human migrations, potentially also facilitating the spread of Indo-European languages and certain phenotypic traits. To investigate this and the role of BA in the formation of Eurasian genetic structure, we used new methodological improvements to sequence low coverage genomes from 101 ancient humans (19 > 1X average depth) covering 3 ka BC to 600 AD from across Eurasia. We show that around 3 ka BC, Central and Northern Europe and Central Asia receive genetic input through people related to the Yamnaya Culture from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, resulting in the formation of the Corded Ware Culture in Europe and the Afanasievo Culture in Central Asia. A thousand years later, genetic input from North-Central Europe into Central Asia gives rise to the Sintashta and Andronovo Cultures. During the late BA and Iron Age, the European-derived populations in Asia are gradually replaced by multi-ethnic cultures, of which some relate to contemporary Asian groups, while others share recent ancestry with Native Americans. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesised spread of Indo-European languages during early BA and reveal that major parts of the demographic structure of present-day Eurasian populations were shaped during this period. We also demonstrate that light skin pigmentation in Europeans was already present at high frequency during the BA, contrary to lactose tolerance, indicating a more recent onset of positive selection in the latter than previously believed.

DNA Deciphers Roots of Modern Europeans (NYT):
About 4,500 years ago, the final piece of Europe’s genetic puzzle fell into place. A new infusion of DNA arrived — one that is still very common in living Europeans, especially in central and northern Europe.

The closest match to this new DNA, both teams of scientists found, comes from skeletons found in Yamnaya graves in western Russia and Ukraine.

Archaeologists have long been fascinated by the Yamnaya, who left behind artifacts on the steppes of western Russia and Ukraine dating from 5,300 to 4,600 years ago. The Yamnaya used horses to manage huge herds of sheep, and followed their livestock across the steppes with wagons full of food and water.

It was an immensely successful way of life, allowing the Yamnaya to build huge funeral mounds for their dead, which they filled with jewelry, weapons and even entire chariots. [. . .]

The Copenhagen team’s study suggests that the Yamnaya didn’t just expand west into Europe, however. The scientists examined DNA from 4,700-year-old skeletons from a Siberian culture called the Afanasievo. It turns out that they inherited Yamnaya DNA, too.

Related: Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe; Penny starting to drop for academics


Anonymous said...

racehist, a Dienekes article stated the majority of the Yamnaya samples were found to have dark eyes and dark hair, and I saw another one stating 5 out of 25 samples Yamnaya had brown eyes.

Does this put to rest the theory of the original Indo-Europeans being light-eyed/haired or Nordic-like? Is Yamnaya the end all of the start of Indo-European expansion, is it known forsure it started there and not perhaps somewhere more north or west? It's weird because way east in Andronovo(albeit much later, could be explained by Yamnaya mixing with light Finno-Uralic people) the majority of samples were light.

Would appreciate your thoughts on this.

n/a said...

Here's the scenario suggested by Allentoft et al.:

Sintashta cultures (Extended Data Fig. 2a) suggests similar genetic
sources of the two, which contrasts with previous hypotheses placing
the origin of Sintastha in Asia or the Middle East 28 . Although we
cannot formally test whether the Sintashta derives directly from an
eastward migration of Corded Ware peoples or if they share common
ancestry with an earlier steppe population, the presence of European
Neolithic farmer ancestry in both the Corded Ware and the Sintashta,
combined with the absence of Neolithic farmer ancestry in the earlier
Yamnaya,would suggest the former being more probable(Fig.2band
Extended Data Table 1).

So Yamnaya west-> Corded Ware, and Corded Ware east-> Sintashta (with Andronovo being an extension of Sintashta).

"Does this put to rest the theory of the original Indo-Europeans being light-eyed/haired or Nordic-like?"

It appears that at the outset of the IE expansion, no population had levels of light pigmentation approaching those found today in Northern Europeans. But we know that by historical times light pigmentation was frequent in many IE populations. Alleles for light eyes/hair/skin (including some likely originating from western European hunter-gatherers and some from Neolithic types in Europe) were probably being strongly selected for throughout this period.

Coon (wisely, as it turns out) recommended withholding judgment on the pigmentation of early "Nordic" types; but the level of depigmentation at a particular date doesn't have any bearing on their skeletal types or the rest of their genetic makeup. Overall, it appears Coon was extremely prescient.

On the basis of the physical evidence as well, it is likely that the Corded people came from somewhere north or east of the Black Sea. The fully Neolithic crania from southern Russia which we have just studied include such a type, also seen in the midst of Sergi's Kurgan aggregation. Until better evidence is produced from elsewhere, we are entitled to consider southern Russia the most likely way station from which thre Corded people moved westward.

There is one cautionary remark which must be made here, and that is: there is so far no justifiable reason for assuming that the Corded people were Nordics. Their cranial type, as we know it, does approach one ore more of the forms which we know, in later times, to have been associated with blondism; but it also approaches those of the Iranian plateau and of Ur, which were probably brunet. Let us withhold judgment, therefore, upon Corded soft parts and pigmentation, and view these remains in the more scientific but less lively light of a skeletal type.

n/a said...

The Bronze Age on the eastern plains

The remaining portions of Europe, for which there is skeletal documentation of Bronze Age date, may be studied as a single unit. This consists of the grassy plain which extends from northern Germany and the Baltic states, south of the forests, across Poland and southern Russia into Siberia. It must be remembered that during the Bronze Age this plain was drier than at present, and that the agriculture of the Neolithic farmers had been discouraged to a large extent both by drought and by the incursion of Battle-Axe people who had first appeared in the Late Neolithic in central and western Europe.

The evidence from Poland, although meager91 shows that the Corded concentration which had taken place some centuries earlier on Polish soil had yielded to the smaller dolichocephalic blend already observed in Austria and Bohemia. During the earlier Bronze Age, there had been a number of Bell Beaker settlers in Poland as well, who may also have left descendants.92

The Bronze Age Ukrainians, again, belonged to the same “Nordic” type, with a mean cranial index of 74,93 without the excessive vault height of the Austrian and Bohemian groups. In Russia the height is less than the breadth in most instances. [. . .]

To the east of European Russia, in western Turkestan and southern Siberia, there was a nucleus of Bronze Age civilization, which had cultural connections with the Danube, the Caucasus, Iran, and China.96 That the participants in this Bronze Age were men of European racial type is very apparent from the remarkable series of one hundred and fifteen adult crania from kurgans in the Minussinsk district of southern Siberia97 (see Appendix I, col. 31), near the headwaters of the Yenisei.

This country, which is now the home of nomadic tribes of Kirghiz and Kalmucks, was, as early as the second millennium before Christ, occupied by a population of purely European character. The series, coming mostly from the first millennium B.C., while reasonably homogeneous, shows as much variability as do most modern groups. The range of the cranial index includes all head forms, among which are a few planoccipital brachycephals, but the mean is dolichocephalic; similarly the faces are prevailingly long, the noses narrow. In general, although individual crania are as large and as long as the most extreme Corded form, the vaults are of moderate size, and the height is considerably less than the breadth.

In lowness of vault and breadth of face, the Minussinsk skulls resemble the Ukrainian Bronze Age group. On the whole, they form a far eastward wing of the typical Bronze Age population which reached from Austria and Bohemia to central Asia—and the term “Nordic,” in the skeletal sense, is as applicable in the east as in the west. One must expect regional differences in a racial type covering such an extensive area. In this case the difference is simply that the vaults are higher and the faces narrower in the west, as far as Poland, and the reverse from the Ukraine on eastward

The Andronovo or Minussinsk Kurgan culture lasted from about 1000 B.C. to 1 A.D., and was followed by other cultures, which lasted until the eighth century, when the Kirghiz came in.98

These later peoples introduced iron, and the habit of making plaster death masks. Not only do these masks represent in many cases a long-headed, narrow-nosed and often aquiline, and narrow-faced people, but the plaster contains in some instances blond hairs pulled out of the beard. The head hair, often preserved on the corpses, is usually brown.

During the fourth century A,D., the physical type definitely changed, as one can tell from the masks—the face is now wide and flat, the nose broad and flat, with a very low bridge. Eye slits are painted blue—and the hair blue with black lines.99 Thus not until after the time of the Huns were the Nordics of southwestern Siberia replaced by mongoloids.

Anonymous said...

>Let us withhold judgment, therefore, upon Corded soft parts and pigmentation, and view these remains in the more scientific but less lively light of a skeletal type.

Reminds me of Angel's "nordic-iranian" type in old anthropological typology and how all his examples of it were dark. The Yamnaya reconstructions by the russians also didn't look very nordic.

Is there any chance we'll get any more reconstructions?

n/a said...

Reconstructions will always be somewhat subjective / less than perfect. Steppe populations contained some very robust elements, as well.

DNA results may eventually be able to help refine facial reconstructions. But genetic correlates of, say, facial soft tissue depths, will first need to be studied in very large modern samples, and it will probably be at least 5 to 10 years before that happens.

Anonymous said...

n/a, in light of these results, what are your predictions for early Mycenaen samples (circa 1700 B.C.)?

Anonymous said...

Among Russian anthropologists, Sintashta and Arkaim were regarded as multi-lingual and racially bifurcated fortresses. This is borne out to a certain extent by the Corded-like ancestry and mixture of gracilized and robust skeletal types. Is it possible that, rather than representing an eastward migration from central Europe, the Yamnaya population instead picked up additional South Asian/Mediterranean farmer elements from BMAC prior to the establishment of Sintashta and Arkaim?

Anonymous said...

Yamnaya samples did score in early neolithic farmer ancestry so they definitely had "mediterannean" people in their ancestral makeup in the chalcolithic already. As they moved westwards and even more importantly southwards, they picked up more of these with the passage of time. There is a time period of 1000 years between initial migration and steppe findings in southern europe, for example mycenean greece, so each successive group would be less and less like the original.

n/a said...


I expect Mycenaeans will show substantial steppe ancestry.

As far as I know, there's no evidence for input from the south in the Sintashta samples tested so far, and the researchers believe the additional neolithic ancestry comes specifically from Europe. Later, in the Iron Age, there's evidence for gene flow from the south onto the steppe in the form of Y haplogroup J.

Blogger said...

Looking for the Ultimate Dating Website? Create an account and find your perfect date.