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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Central Asian admixture in Hallstatt Celts

One of the two Hallstatt_Bylany samples from Damgaard et al. 2018, the individual labeled DA112 (2430±49 YBP), shows a subtle but clear signal of Central Asian ancestry. As far as I know, this hasn't yet been reported by anyone else, so I'll happily be the first to do it here. To initially explore this issue, here are few D-stats comparing DA112 with DA111, the other Hallstatt_Bylany sample, in regards to their affinity to ancient Central Asian groups:

Thus, the two significant mixture signals (Z≥3) are produced by Dashti_Kozy_BA, from Bronze Age Tajikistan, and Botai, from Eneolithic Kazakhstan. But a few of the other populations, like Scythian_Pazyryk, are also close to a significant Z-score. Of course, this doesn't mean that the Dashti_Kozy_BA and/or Botai peoples migrated into the Bylany region, in what is now the Czech Republic. It simply shows that DA112 is different from DA111 in a statistically significant way due to ancestry closely related to Dashti_Kozy_BA and Botai.

To further explore this issue I ran a series of mixture models using the G25/nMonte method. Below is an example of one of the models that made good sense and also returned a fairly reasonable statistical fit. Hence, it appears to me that DA112 was in some part, perhaps mostly, of Scythian origin, with resulting minor admixture from Iron Age Central Asia.


[1] distance%=3.9953

Since it's extremely unlikely that DA112 was the only Hallstatt Celt with this type of genetic structure, then it's reasonable to conclude that at least some Hallstatt populations harbored Scythian ancestry. Admittedly, this isn't a very surprising conclusion considering the close contacts, as inferred from archaeological data, between the Hallstatt culture and various nomadic groups with assumed origins far to the east of Central Europe. In fact, here's what the Damgaard et al. supplement says about the Bylany burial site:

The anthropologist J. Chochol hypothesized that cremations were of individuals of the local population, whereas the skeletal remains represented immigrant nobility.

Examples of long-distance contact are present in the form of a horse harness (probably Kimery horizon), a mounted stone characteristic of the Carpathian Basin and Black Sea region in Grave 1, and a pin in Grave 18 with bird motifs analogous to those found in the Caucasus.

Nevertheless, it's nice to see archaeogenetics corroborate archeology on yet another issue. For those of you who would like to try running your own G25/nMonte mixture models of DA112, all of the necessary data are available at the links below. If you're new to this, a guide to modeling with the G25/nMonte is available here.

Global 25 datasheet (scaled)

Global 25 datasheet

Global 25 pop averages (scaled)

Global 25 pop averages

See also...

First real foray into Migration Period Europe: the Gepid, Roman, Ostrogoth and others...


Ric Hern said...

The Hallstatt drawings of Men with upwards curling shoes comes to mind. Wonder if Iron was introduced via the Steppe ? How does he compare to Cimmerians, I wonder ?

Ric Hern said...

Cimmerian ?

Matt said...

Interesting; yeah, the most strong signal in G25 I can see is that DA112 is closer than DA111 to East-Central European populations (hence 79.2 Scythian Hungary here), but maybe there is enough from Central Asia to register (even if you can see how that would probably dissolve down to nothing later in history with a few more layers of admix).

Anything show up with Hungary_IA sample btw? As a more proximate ancestor. (If Hungary_IA is earlier and not later).

Also, what about running all pair comparisons between the Scythian_Hungary samples? Damgaard's paper didn't think they found anything, so described the "Scythian Hungary" as purely culturally linked (an incoming elite recruits locals type of thing?), but maybe some of the individual samples might similarly show significant signals relative to each other.

huijbregts said...

I found that Sarmatian_Pokrovka fits even better then Scythian_Pazyryk (unscaled)




Davidski said...


I purged Hungary_IA from my main dataset recently, due to low coverage and noise and to free up some space, so I can't check right now.

But yeah, there probably is some subtle substructure in the Scythian_Hungary set along these sorts of lines...

Mbuti Botai Scythian_Hungary_rest Scythian_Hungary_DA191 0.0078 2.041 668831
Mbuti Botai Scythian_Hungary_rest Scythian_Hungary_DA194 0.0122 3.232 616577

Arta said...

Sigynnae of Herodotus instead of Scythians?

Scythians certainly raided those regions but Sigynnae lived in those (relatively) very western regions. A catalyst for Celtic ethnogenesis? A very western and old IE people that were moved back towards steppe Iranics, the Sigynnae?

huijbregts said...

Hallstatt_Bylany:DA111 seems very different from Hallstatt_Bylany:DA112.
It might be just a Central Beaker.

Steven said...

Can any of this DNA still be found in modern Central Europeans?

zardos said...

There have been hints for Eastern influences in the Hallstatt culture, especially its Eastern zone, for a very long time. There were clear shaven heads, chariots, animal style art, horsemanship, the importance of the horse in the Hallstatt and later Celtic culture, incursions of steppe people, signs of raids and attacks on settlements by those. But most importantly, a nobility which seems to have separated itself from the common people, living in fortresses, often build on high ground. These elite lived a very luxurious life and imported Greek goods. This way ideas from the Mediterranean, especially the Greeks, flew into their lands. The transition from Hallstatt to the La Tène culture seems to have been rapid, revolutionary, oftentimes violent. After that, the separated aristocracy largely disappeared, old fortresses and holy places were left behind and in the end you have a society more based on the common free warriors, rather than a small, separated elite living in luxury.

If this scenario is correct and the obvious class conflict would have been worsened by ethnic differences, I wonder how much of the Eastern influenced nobility survived the revolution. Also, looking at the greater picture, the Eastern Hallstatt zone was always much more Eastern-steppe influenced than the West, which gave birth to the classic La Tène culture.

Samuel Andrews said...

This is very interesting but keep in mind guys he only has like 3% Central Asian admixture. I guess if his Scythian ancestors were mostly European like the ones by the Samara river it is more than that but even so his Scythian ancestry isn't huge.

Plus, these Hallstatt samples are not random samples. They were chosen by the study precisely because their site showed cultural influence from Scythians.


Is it possible to do an analysis which shows how the Hallstatt genomes are related to modern Europeans? Maybe Germanic & Slavic admixture erases a strong signal but I'd imagine he has shared drift with some Central Europeans.

Davidski said...

@Samuel Andrews

This is very interesting but keep in mind guys he only has like 3% Central Asian admixture.

It's probably more than 3%, because I suspect that Scythian_Hungary and even DA111 have some of this admixture as well. Detecting the true levels of this sort of cryptic ancestry is very difficult.

Is it possible to do an analysis which shows how the Hallstatt genomes are related to modern Europeans? Maybe Germanic & Slavic admixture erases a strong signal but I'd imagine he has shared drift with some Central Europeans.

Next to a haplotype analysis, which may or may not be possible with the low coverage DA112, the G25 is the best thing, because it does pick up Balto-Slavic-specific genetic drift rather well, as opposed to formal stats, which mostly ignore such recent drift.

huijbregts said...

@Samuel Andrews
"Is it possible to do an analysis which shows how the Hallstatt genomes are related to modern Europeans?"

Here is my analysis of my own sample:


Germany_Medieval, 48.6
England_Roman, 27.6
Germany_Medieval_ACD, 11.4
Sarmatian, 6.8
Hallstatt_Bylany:DA111, 5.6

Keep in mind that nMonte3 does not show the result of the average populations, but keeps only the most fitting samples. If I do the same analysis on the median of these samples, Germany_Medieval is fully eaten by Hallstatt_Bylany:DA111, which suggests that the two are closely related.

Skordo said...

Could this also coincide with the U7 mitochondria that has been found in the Hallstatt culture?

Davidski said...


Could this also coincide with the U7 mitochondria that has been found in the Hallstatt culture?

I think it's a pretty good bet, because U7 is missing in Yamnaya, Corded Ware, Bell Beakers, Sintashta, etc. so it likely represents true West Asian admixture in Europe independent of the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age expansions from the western steppes.

Skordo said...

Very interesting! Thank you David.

Wastrel said...

Given the late arrival of the Scythians in Ukraine (around the same time as this burial in the Czech Republic), it seems, while not impossible (they were highly mobile and aggressive, raiding and subjugating neighbours), at least highly questionable chronologically whether there could be Scythian genetic influence so far west so early.

[It's also probably more than questionable whether the Pazyryk burials are actually of Scythians, though they're certainly of a culturally broadly 'Scythic' nature. But the scythic cultural sphere encompassed at the least both scythians and saka, and may well also have encompassed other iranians, turks, mongols, uralics, etc. For one thing, aren't the Pazyryk males N1?]

Are there perhaps any Cimmerian samples to compare to? Given the location and the time, Cimmerian influence would seem a rather more plausible path from central asia into central europe, I'd have thought...

Davidski said...


In Damgaard et al. Figure 1 Hallstatt_Bylany overlaps chronologically with Scythian_Hungary. So if their chronology is correct, then DA112 might be partly of early Central European Scythian stock, which then became more and more European and eventually lost almost all traces of Central Asian admixture, resulting in the appearance of populations like Scythian_Hungary.

Keep in mind also, that there's no need for Scythians to have been present in the Bylany region at all for DA112 to have Scythian ancestry if, as suggested by archaeological data, the Hallstatt nobility in that area was in large part of foreign origin.

But sure, the admixture in question might be Cimmerian instead of Scythian. Unfortunately, I recently dumped the only Cimmerian in my dataset, due to low coverage and noise, and can't be bothered putting him back to test this.

By the way, Pazyryk remains belong to R1a. Probably R1a-Z93, same as the other Scythians and Andronovo.

Davidski said...

In fact, I got the date wrong for DA112 in the blog post. It's actually 2430±49 YBP, which totally overlaps with the Scythians from Hungary. Fixed now.

Davidski said...


I just checked the paper, and one of the Scythian_Hungary samples in the dataset, labeled DA199, is actually a medieval sample. I'll be making the necessary changes in the blog post. But by the looks of it they won't be major changes.

Aniasi said...

Is there any evidence that this is actual Scythian or Sarmatian admixture? There are still unattested populations and peoples that existed in the steppes, much like the Swat valley peoples.

Davidski said...


There were Scythians in Central Europe at the same time as when DA112 was alive, so they're a plausible source of the Central Asian ancestry.

Samuel Andrews said...

The absence of mHG U7 in Europe shows diversity in CHG-related pops. A big study was done on mHG U7. IMO, there may have been a U7 pop in the same sense there was a U5 pop. It may be a lineage from a divergent Eurasian population that didn't contribute to all CHG-related pops.

Ryan said...

Do you think this admixture was widespread enough to leave linguistic evidence behind?

Wastrel said...

So far as I know, there's been no suggestion of any substantial Iranian superstrate in the Celtic languages, no, if that's what you mean.

Samuel Andrews said...

Before anyone links this with Medieval Pictish & Scottish claims of Scythian origins..... To them, Scythians were an ancient historical people. They were ignorant of history & made a guess from where their ancestors arrived on the Isles from.

Ric Hern said...

@ Samuel

Amazingly they were not too far wrong. Ahead of their time...Heheheeeh

Ric Hern said...

@ Samuel

Why did they choose Scythians out of all others peoples ? The Irish Monks certainly knew something about the Roman Empire and they traveled around Western Europe on religious quests.

Could it be that an ancient tale of origin survived into the Middle Ages and pointed far to the East and the Monks being a bit more knowledgeable equated it to the lands of the Scythians ?

Samuel Andrews said...

Would be so cool if Picts & Scots somehow kept oral memory of ancestors from eastern Europe/Russia arriving in Britain. But I super doubt it.

Garvan said...

The Irish monks were trying to weave their religious beliefs in the biblical origin of life (Cain & Able, the Tower of babel, 10,000-year-old earth etc.) to the native Irish origin stories. How do you get from the tower of babel to Ireland? Via the Scythians, obviously.

I recommend this text ‘Gods and fighting men” as an introduction to the Irish myths.


Chad Rohlfsen said...

In all likelihood... not Scythians. They're possibly Iranic speaking, but not Scythians.

Orthogonal said...

Because they sound similar, i.e. "Scyth" "Scotti", was the suggestion I've read for why the Irish claimed that. I also believe a Scythian origin myth has been mentioned for Saxons as well.