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Thursday, January 30, 2020

The great and the good

Here's a quote from a new paper on the impact of genetics, and especially ancient DNA, on archeology and linguistics co-authored by archeologist James Mallory and geneticist Oleg Balanovsky:

Just as the genetic evidence for a steppe homeland appeared to weaken a popular theory (among archaeologists more than linguists) that the Indo-European languages spread from an Anatolian homeland with the spread of farming and the AF genetic signature, a new complication arose: the steppe signal that is found from Ireland to the Yenisei comprises an admixture of EHG and CHG. Such an admixture would appear to involve two deep sources that should have developed separately over the course of thousands of years; in short, there is no reason to believe that the two components spoke closely related languages or even belonged to the same language families. Such a model suggested that Proto-Indo-European may have originated out of the merger of two very different language families, a theory that had once had been suggested by several linguists but had never attained anything remotely resembling consensus [62]. If one does not accept an “admixture language” then the natural question remains: did Proto-Indo-European evolve out of language spoken by EHG or out of language spoken by CHG? So genetics has pushed the current homeland debate into several camps: those who seek the homeland either in the southern Caucasus or Iran (CHG) and those who locate it in the steppelands north of the Caucasus and Caspian Sea (EHG). DOI:

Make no mistake, this is, in common parlance, total horsehit. That's because:

- if we go back far enough, every goddamn human population that ever existed is a mixture of genetically highly diverged earlier populations, but this obviously doesn't mean that all languages are creoles

- in fact, the so called CHG/EHG mixture that Balanovsky and Mallory are talking about was already present on the Pontic-Caspian steppe around 4,300 BCE, and probably much earlier, so it's likely that it first emerged there before the existence of anything even resembling an Indo-European language

- come to think of it, I'm not aware of any tradition in historical linguistics that requires language families to be directly traced back to specific Mesolithic hunter-gatherer populations. So, with all due respect to Mallory and Balanovsky, it looks like they pulled that theory out of their hats.

The impression that I've been getting for a while now is that the great and the good at various major academic institutions are having a rather difficult time interpreting the ancient DNA data relevant to the Indo-European homeland debate. Why? I don't have a clue. Someone should e-mail them and ask. Feel free to let me know what they say in the comments below.

See also...

A final note for the year

A note on Steppe Maykop

Did South Caspian hunter-fishers really migrate to Eastern Europe?

Monday, January 20, 2020

Graphing the truth

I haven't used TreeMix since qpGraph became freely available for Linux. Among other things, the latter offers greater control, reproducibility and transparency.

However, I'd say that in its current form qpGraph is not the most objective way to analyze data. That's because if you're really good with it, and you want a graph to work, then often you can make it work by tweaking whatever it is that needs to be tweaked.

It's not possible to do a lot of tweaking with TreeMix. Indeed, once the user picks the samples for the TreeMix run, the rest of the process can be totally unsupervised, and thus free from human interference. Obviously, that's not a guarantee of accuracy, but it can be useful.

I feel I need to run more unsupervised analyses, especially when exploring new data. So to that end, I've dusted off TreeMix and will be using it regularly again.

There's been some talk lately online about migrations from Central Asia giving rise to the Eneolithic populations of the North Caucasus Piedmont steppe. In my opinion, that sounds like nonsense. But let's see what TreeMix has to say on the matter. In the graphs below look for the samples labeled Progress_En and Vonyuchka_En, respectively.

As far as I can tell, both of these graphs essentially corroborate the results from my recent Principal Component Analyses (PCA) with many of the same ancients (see here). In other words, Progress_En and Vonyuchka_En can be described as mixtures of populations closely related to the hunter-gatherers of the Caucasus on one hand, and those of Eastern Europe on the other. How does Central Asia fit into this, you might ask? It doesn't, unless you really want it to.

See also...

Did South Caspian hunter-fishers really migrate to Eastern Europe?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Hungarian Conquerors were rich in Y-haplogroup N (Fóthi et al. 2020)

Open access at Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences at this LINK. Below is the paper abstract. Emphasis is mine:

According to historical sources, ancient Hungarians were made up of seven allied tribes and the fragmented tribes that split off from the Khazars, and they arrived from the Eastern European steppes to conquer the Carpathian Basin at the end of the ninth century AD. Differentiating between the tribes is not possible based on archaeology or history, because the Hungarian Conqueror artifacts show uniformity in attire, weaponry, and warcraft. We used Y-STR and SNP analyses on male Hungarian Conqueror remains to determine the genetic source, composition of tribes, and kin of ancient Hungarians. The 19 male individuals paternally belong to 16 independent haplotypes and 7 haplogroups (C2, G2a, I2, J1, N3a, R1a, and R1b). The presence of the N3a haplogroup is interesting because it rarely appears among modern Hungarians (unlike in other Finno-Ugric-speaking peoples) but was found in 37.5% of the Hungarian Conquerors. This suggests that a part of the ancient Hungarians was of Ugric descent and that a significant portion spoke Hungarian. We compared our results with public databases and discovered that the Hungarian Conquerors originated from three distant territories of the Eurasian steppes, where different ethnicities joined them: Lake Baikal-Altai Mountains (Huns/Turkic peoples), Western Siberia-Southern Urals (Finno-Ugric peoples), and the Black Sea-Northern Caucasus (Caucasian and Eastern European peoples). As such, the ancient Hungarians conquered their homeland as an alliance of tribes, and they were the genetic relatives of Asiatic Huns, Finno-Ugric peoples, Caucasian peoples, and Slavs from the Eastern European steppes.

Fóthi, E., Gonzalez, A., Fehér, T. et al., Genetic analysis of male Hungarian Conquerors: European and Asian paternal lineages of the conquering Hungarian tribes, Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2020) 12: 31.

See also...

On the association between Uralic expansions and Y-haplogroup N

More on the association between Uralic expansions and Y-haplogroup N

Big deal of 2019: ancient DNA confirms the link between Y-haplogroup N and Uralic expansions