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Sunday, November 11, 2018

The story of the earliest wine


Here's an interesting YouTube video about the origin and spread of wine making. Many of you might also appreciate the discussion about the Kura-Araxes Culture (about 26 minutes into the presentation)...


See also...

A potentially violent end to the Kura-Araxes Culture (Alizadeh et al. 2018)

How relevant is Arslantepe to the PIE homeland debate?

Likely Yamnaya incursion(s) into Northwestern Iran

Monday, November 5, 2018

On the spread of dairy pastoralism to East Asia (Jeong & Wilkin et al. 2018)


Over at PNAS at this LINK. Below is the abstract and a table with the uniparental haplogroups for the 20 ancient samples from the paper. Emphasis is mine.

Recent paleogenomic studies have shown that migrations of Western steppe herders (WSH) beginning in the Eneolithic (ca. 3300–2700 BCE) profoundly transformed the genes and cultures of Europe and central Asia. Compared with Europe, however, the eastern extent of this WSH expansion is not well defined. Here we present genomic and proteomic data from 22 directly dated Late Bronze Age burials putatively associated with early pastoralism in northern Mongolia (ca. 1380–975 BCE). Genome-wide analysis reveals that they are largely descended from a population represented by Early Bronze Age hunter-gatherers in the Baikal region, with only a limited contribution (∼7%) of WSH ancestry. At the same time, however, mass spectrometry analysis of dental calculus provides direct protein evidence of bovine, sheep, and goat milk consumption in seven of nine individuals. No individuals showed molecular evidence of lactase persistence, and only one individual exhibited evidence of >10% WSH ancestry, despite the presence of WSH populations in the nearby Altai-Sayan region for more than a millennium. Unlike the spread of Neolithic farming in Europe and the expansion of Bronze Age pastoralism on the Western steppe, our results indicate that ruminant dairy pastoralism was adopted on the Eastern steppe by local hunter-gatherers through a process of cultural transmission and minimal genetic exchange with outside groups.


Jeong & Wilkin et al., Bronze Age population dynamics and the rise of dairy pastoralism on the eastern Eurasian steppe, PNAS published ahead of print November 5, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1813608115

See also...

The mystery of the Sintashta people

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Big deal of 2018: Yamnaya not related to Maykop


I was going to write this post after the genotype data from the Wang et al. preprint on the genetic prehistory of the Greater Caucasus became available, because I wanted to demonstrate a few key points with analyses of my own. But I've got a hunch that the formal publication of the manuscript, and thus also the release of the data, has been indefinitely delayed for one reason or another. So here goes anyway, the big deal of 2018...

This year, ancient DNA has revealed that the populations associated with the Maykop and Yamnaya archeological cultures were genetically distinct from each other, and, in all likelihood, didn't mix to any significant degree. Case in point: an ADMIXTURE analysis from Wang et al. 2018.


No doubt, this is quite a shock for many people, especially those of you who consider Maykop to have been a Proto-Indo-European-speaking culture that either gave rise to Yamnaya or at least Indo-Europeanized it. So now, if you still want to see Maykop as the Indo-Europeanizing agent in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, you'll have to rely solely on archeological and linguistics data, and also keep in mind that ancient DNA has slapped you in the face.

In just a few years, ancient DNA has provided us with plenty of shocks, but this is arguably among the biggest.

However, I honestly can't say that it was a huge surprise for me, because I tentatively predicted this outcome more than two years ago based on a handful of mitochondrial (mtDNA) haplotypes (see here). Certainly, analyzing genome-wide genetic data is what I thrive on, but if that's off limits, then eyeballing even a few mtDNA markers can also be very useful.

Wang et al. easily demonstrate the lack of any meaningful genetic relationship between Maykop (including Steppe Maykop, which shows an unusual eastern influence) and Yamnaya using a range of methods. But, judging by their conclusion, in which they still seem to want to see Maykop as the said Indo-Europeanizing agent in the Pontic-Caspian steppe, they're not exactly enthused by their own results. And they also make the following claim (emphasis is mine):

Based on PCA and ADMIXTURE plots we observe two distinct genetic clusters: one cluster falls with previously published ancient individuals from the West Eurasian steppe (hence termed ‘Steppe’), and the second clusters with present-day southern Caucasian populations and ancient Bronze Age individuals from today’s Armenia (henceforth called ‘Caucasus’), while a few individuals take on intermediate positions between the two. The stark distinction seen in our temporal transect is also visible in the Y-chromosome haplogroup distribution, with R1/R1b1 and Q1a2 types in the Steppe and L, J, and G2 types in the Caucasus cluster (Fig. 3A, Supplementary Data 1). In contrast, the mitochondrial haplogroup distribution is more diverse and almost identical in both groups (Fig. 3B, Supplementary Data 1).

I'd say that what they're almost suggesting there is that the Caucasus and Steppe clusters, hence also the Maykop and Yamnaya populations, shared significant maternal ancestry. If this were true, then perhaps it might mean that the Pontic-Caspian steppe was Indo-Europeanized via female-biased migrations from Maykop? Yes, perhaps, if this were true. However, it's not.

To be sure, Yamnaya does show a close genome-wide genetic relationship with an earlier group from the North Caucasus region: the so called Eneolithic steppe people. But they can't be linked to Maykop or even the roughly contemporaneous nearby Eneolithic Caucasus population, and seem to have vanished, at least as a coherent genetic unit, just as Maykop got going. Wang et al. managed to sequence three Eneolithic steppe samples with the following mtDNA haplogroups: H2, I3a and T2a1b.

H2 is too broad a haplogroup to bother with, but here are the results for I3a and T2a1b from the recently launched AmtDB, the first database of ancient human mitochondrial genomes (see here).


In a database of 1,131 ancient samples, I3a shows up in just five individuals, all of them associated with Yamnaya-related archeological cultures and populations: Poltavka (BARu), Unetice (UNC), Corded Ware (CWC), and Bell Beaker (BBC). Similarly, T2a1b shows up in just four individuals, all of them associated with Corded Ware (CWC) and Bell Beaker-derived Bronze Age Britons (BABI). And if I go back a step to T2a1, then the list reveals two Yamnaya individuals from what is now Kalmykia, Russia.

Thus, using just two mtDNA haplotypes I'm able to corroborate the results from genome-wide genetic data showing a close relationship between Eneolithic steppe and Yamnaya. So like I said, useful stuff.

This obviously begs the question: what does the AmtDB reveal about Maykop mtDNA haplotypes, especially in the context of the genetic relationship, or rather lack of, between Yamnaya and Maykop? Yep, again, the AmtDB basically corroborates the results from genome-wide genetic data.

But don't take my word for it. Stick the currently available Maykop mtDNA haplogroups into the AmtDB and see what happens (for your convenience I've made a list available here). Considering the close geographic and temporal proximity of Maykop to Yamnaya, you won't see an overly high sharing rate with Yamnaya and closely related populations. Moreover, Maykop shows several haplogroups that appear highly unusual in the context of the Eneolithic and Bronze Age steppe mtDNA gene pool, and, instead, link its maternal ancestry to those of the early European farmers, West Asians or even Central Asians, such as HV, M52, U1b, U7b and X2f.

See also...

Steppe Maykop: a buffer zone?

Yamnaya isn't from Iran just like R1a isn't from India

Big deal of 2016: the territory of present-day Iran cannot be the Indo-European homeland