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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Open analysis and discussion thread: Etruscans, Latins, Romans and others

I've just added the coordinates for more than 100 ancient genomes from the recently published Antonio et al. ancient Rome paper to the Global25 datasheets. Look for the population and individual codes listed here. Same links as always:

Global25 datasheet ancient scaled

Global25 pop averages ancient scaled

Global25 datasheet ancient

Global25 pop averages ancient

Thus far I've only managed to check a handful of the coordinates, so please let me know if you spot any issues. Below is a Principal Component Analysis (PCA) featuring ten of the genomes belonging to Etruscan and Italic speakers. I ran the PCA with an online tool specifically designed for Global25 coordinates freely available here.

Can we say anything useful about the origins of the Etruscan and early Italic populations thanks to these new genomes? Also, to reiterate my question from the last blog post, what are the genetic differences exactly between the Etruscans, early Latins, Romans and present-day Italians? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

See also...

Getting the most out of the Global25

Thursday, November 7, 2019

What's the difference between ancient Romans and present-day Italians?

The first paper on the genomics of ancient Romans was finally published today at Science [LINK]. It's behind a paywall, but the supplementary info is freely available here. Below is a quick summary of the results courtesy of the accompanying Ancient Rome Data Explorer.

I'm told that the genotype data from the paper will be online within a day or so at the Pritchard Lab website here. I'll have a lot more to say about ancient Romans and present-day Italians after I get my hands on it.

See also...

Open analysis and discussion thread: Etruscans, Latins, Romans and others

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Modeling your ancestry has never been easier

An exceedingly simple, yet feature-packed, online tool ideal for modeling ancestry with Global25 coordinates is freely available HERE. It works offline too, after downloading the web page onto your computer. Just copy paste the coordinates of your choice under the "source" and "target" tabs, and then mess around with the buttons to see what happens. The screen cap below shows me doing just that.

Another free, easy to use online tool that works with Global25 coordinates is the Principal Component Analysis (PCA) runner HERE. Below is a screen cap of me checking out one of the eight PCA that it offers.

See also...

Getting the most out of the Global25

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Battle Axe people came from the steppe (Malmstrom et al. 2019)

It's been obvious for a while now that the Corded Ware culture (CWC) and its Scandinavian variant, the Battle Axe culture (BAC), originated on the Pontic-Caspian steppe. However, Malmstrom et al. drive the point home in a new open access paper at Proceedings B [LINK]. From the paper, emphasis is mine:

The Neolithic period is characterized by major cultural transformations and human migrations, with lasting effects across Europe. To understand the population dynamics in Neolithic Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea area, we investigate the genomes of individuals associated with the Battle Axe Culture (BAC), a Middle Neolithic complex in Scandinavia resembling the continental Corded Ware Culture (CWC). We sequenced 11 individuals (dated to 3330–1665 calibrated before common era (cal BCE)) from modern-day Sweden, Estonia, and Poland to 0.26–3.24× coverage. Three of the individuals were from CWC contexts and two from the central-Swedish BAC burial ‘Bergsgraven’. By analysing these genomes together with the previously published data, we show that the BAC represents a group different from other Neolithic populations in Scandinavia, revealing stratification among cultural groups. Similar to continental CWC, the BAC-associated individuals display ancestry from the Pontic–Caspian steppe herders, as well as smaller components originating from hunter–gatherers and Early Neolithic farmers. Thus, the steppe ancestry seen in these Scandinavian BAC individuals can be explained only by migration into Scandinavia. Furthermore, we highlight the reuse of megalithic tombs of the earlier Funnel Beaker Culture (FBC) by people related to BAC. The BAC groups likely mixed with resident middle Neolithic farmers (e.g. FBC) without substantial contributions from Neolithic foragers.

By contrast, the CWC individuals from Obłaczkowo in Poland (poz44 and poz81) show an extremely high proportion of steppe ancestry (greater than 90%), which is different from the later CWC-associated individuals excavated in Pikutkowo (Poland) [23], but similar to some other CWC-associated individuals from Germany, Lithuania, and Latvia [2,8,31]. Interestingly, these individuals with a large fraction of steppe ancestry have typically been dated to more than 2600 BCE, making them among the earliest CWC individuals genetically investigated. This observation, i.e. early CWC individuals resembled (genetically) Yamnaya-associated individuals, while later CWC groups show higher levels of European Neolithic farmer ancestry (Pearson's correlation coefficient: −0.51, p = 0.006) (figure 2), suggests an initial dispersal that occurred rapidly.

See also...

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Balkan connection

The hot topic at the moment is social inequality in Bronze Age Europe, thanks to a new paper by Mittnik et al. at Science. The full article is sitting behind an exceedingly robust paywall here.

However, the genotype dataset from the paper is freely available at the Max Planck Society's Edmond data repository here. Below is my Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of ancient West Eurasian genetic variation featuring 41 of the highest quality ancients from the new dataset. Almost all of them are from the Lech Valley in the Bavarian Alps, covering the period from the Bell Beaker culture (BBC) to the Middle Bronze Age (MBA). Two of the samples are from a mass Corded Ware culture (CWC) burial in the more northerly Tauber Valley.

I've also highlighted other ancients on the plot associated with the BBC and CWC from present-day Netherlands and Germany, respectively. The relevant PCA datasheet can be downloaded here.

Social stratification in ancient Europe is a fascinating topic, and it's an issue that I've started looking at myself (see here). However, I can't see any correlation between the inferred social standing of the individuals from the Lech and Tauber valleys and their positions in my PCA.

Nevertheless, the PCA is interesting in that it highlights considerable genetic heterogeneity within the Lech Valley BBC population. Indeed, how is this heterogeneity even possible, if, as per Mittnik et al., ancient DNA "has shown that the spread of the BBC throughout continental Europe did not involve large-scale migrations"?

Below is another version of my PCA, but this time focusing on three males: Lech Valley Beakers UNTA58_68Sk1 and WEHR_1192SkA, as well as ALT_4 from the aforementioned mass CWC grave in the Tauber Valley. Note that UNTA58_68Sk1 and WEHR_1192SkA represent genetically the most southern and northern, respectively, Lech Valley BBC samples that had enough data to be run in my analysis. I chose to focus on males because they carry the Y-chromosome, which can be informative about male-mediated ancient population expansions.

The PCA outcomes for these individuals are generally in line with their results in other types of genetic analyses, including those based on formal statistics. For instance, compared to the other two, ALT_4 harbors excess early steppe herder ancestry, UNTA58_68Sk1 excess early European farmer ancestry, and WEHR_1192SkA excess European hunter-gatherer ancestry. Moreover...

- UNTA58_68Sk1 shows a non-local isotopic signature and belongs to Y-haplogroup G2a, a marker essentially missing from BBC populations north of the Alps, and is best modeled as a two-way mixture between Bronze Age populations from the Balkans and the Pontic-Caspian steppe (see here), which probably means that he was a migrant to the Lech Valley from south of the Alps

- importantly, UNTA58_68Sk1 is not an isolated case, at least in the sense that several other BBC individuals from Bavaria, Bohemia, Hungary and Poland show varying ratios of Balkan-related ancestry, although almost all of these people are women

- WEHR_1192SkA is very similar to Bell Beakers from the northern Netherlands with whom he shares the R1b-P312 Y-haplogroup, suggesting that he was part of a population that moved into the Lech Valley from potentially as far away as the North Sea coast

- although ALT_4 probably shares the R1b-L51 Y-haplogroup with WEHR_1192SkA and many other BBC and Bronze Age individuals from the Bavarian Alps and surrounds, this can't be used as evidence of significant local genetic continuity after the CWC period, especially considering the comparatively eastern genome-wide structure of ALT_4.

Of course, archeological data suggest that the BBC was influenced in some important ways by the Copper and Bronze Age cultures of the Balkans and Carpathian Basin. So much so, in fact, that Marija Gimbutas, author of The Civilization of the Goddess, believed that the BBC originated in the Balkans from a synthesis of the local Vucedol culture and the intrusive Yamnaya culture from the Pontic-Caspian steppe.

Considering the ancient DNA evidence, however, the main demographic center of the early BBC could not have been south of the Alps.

Rather, it appears that early BBC and even CWC groups from north of the Alps moved into the Balkans and Carpathian Basin, where they may have established contacts with the local elites. If so, this might explain the significant southern cultural influences on the BBC, but limited accompanying genetic impact. This scenario also has support from archeological data (for instance, see here).

See also...

Is Yamnaya overrated?

The Boscombe Bowmen

Single Grave > Bell Beakers

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Is Yamnaya overrated?

Four years after the publication of the seminal ancient DNA paper Massive migration from the steppe is a source for Indo-European languages in Europe by Haak et al., we're still waiting for some of its loose ends to be finally tied up with new samples. In particular...

- if the men of the Corded Ware culture (CWC) were, by and large, derived from the population of the Yamnaya culture, then where are the Yamnaya samples with R1a-M417, the main CWC Y-haplogroup?

- if the men of the Bell Beaker culture (BBC) were also, by and large, derived from the population of the Yamnaya culture, then where are the Yamnaya samples with R1b-P312, the main BBC Y-haplogroup?

- and, most crucially, if R1b-L51, which includes R1b-P312, and is nowadays by far the most important Y-haplogroup in Western Europe, arrived there from the Pontic-Caspian steppe, then why hasn't it yet appeared in any of the ancient DNA from this part of Eastern Europe or surrounds, except of course in samples that are too young to be relevant?

I'm certainly not suggesting that, in hindsight, the said paper now looks fundamentally flawed. In fact, I'd say that it has aged remarkably well, especially considering how fast things are moving in the field of ancient genomics.

But those loose ends really need tying up, one way or another. It's now time.

So someone out there, please, let us know finally if you have the relevant Yamnaya samples. And if you don't, that's OK too, just tell us what you do have. Indeed, it'd be nice know a few basic details about the thousands of samples that have been successfully sequenced in various labs and are waiting to be published. A lot of people would appreciate it.

See also...

Corded Ware as an offshoot of Hungarian Yamnaya (Anthony 2017)

Hungarian Yamnaya > Bell Beakers?

Late PIE ground zero now obvious; location of PIE homeland still uncertain, but...

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Y-haplogroup R1a and mental health

I've updated my map of pre-Corded Ware culture R1a samples with a couple of new entries from Central and South Asia (the original is still here). However, before any of you get overly excited, please note that these samples aren't older than the Corded Ware culture. The reason I added them to my map is to counter the ongoing absurd claims online that South Asian R1a isn't derived from European R1a.

Just in case the map can't be viewed in all of its glory in some devices, here's what the fine print says:

The oldest example of R1a in ancient DNA from Central Asia is dated to 2132-1940 calBCE (ID I3770, Narasimhan 2019). Moreover, this sequence is closely related to much older R1a samples from Central, Eastern and Northern Europe, and phylogenetically nested within their diversity. Thus, it must surely represent a population expansion from Europe to Central Asia. Indeed, it's also associated with the Bronze Age Andronovo archeological culture, which is usually seen as an offshoot of the Corded Ware culture (CWC) of Late Neolithic Europe. The vast majority of present-day R1a lineages in Central Asia are closely related to that of I3770, and so must also ultimately derive from Europe.

The oldest instance of R1a in ancient DNA from South Asia is dated to just 1044-922 calBCE (ID I12457, Narasimhan 2019). This sequence, as well as the vast majority of present-day South Asian R1a lineages, are closely related to much older R1a samples from Central, Eastern and Northern Europe, and phylogenetically nested within their diversity. Thus, they must surely represent a population expansion from Europe to South Asia via Central Asia, in all likelihood during the Bronze Age. Even if R1a existed in South Asia before the Bronze Age, which is extremely unlikely, because it's found in samples from indigenous European hunter-gatherers, the vast majority of present-day R1a lineages in South Asia must be ultimately from Europe.

The idea that most, if not all, South Asian R1a is derived from European R1a seriously scares a lot of people. This is obvious in many online discussions on the topic. I suspect they're so frightened by it because, in their minds, it has the potential to encourage discrimination and even racism, perhaps by re-defining the colonization of much of the world by European nations in the recent past as the natural order of things?

In any case, clearly we're dealing with some sort of mass phobia here. I've got advice for those of you suffering from this problem: if you're honestly worried that the geographic provenance and expansion history of some Y-haplogroup is going to negatively impact on your life in any meaningful way, then it's time to find yourself a quality mental health professional. All the best with that.

See also...

The mystery of the Sintashta people

The Poltavka outlier

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

Thursday, September 5, 2019

On the surprising genetic origins of the Harappan people (Shinde et al. 2019)

The long awaited paper with ancient DNA from the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) site of Rakhigarhi has finally arrived. Courtesy of Shinde et al. at Current Biology:

An ancient Harappan genome lacks ancestry from Steppe pastoralists or Iranian farmers

The bad news is that the paper features just one low coverage IVC genome, and it belongs to a female, so there's no Y-haplogroup. However, importantly, this individual is very similar to genetic outliers from Bronze Age West and Central Asia known as Indus_Periphery. So much so, in fact, that they could easily be from the same gene pool.

This, of course, gives strong support to the idea that Indus_Periphery is a useful stand-in for the real IVC population (see here).

Surprisingly, despite being largely of West Eurasian origin, the IVC people possibly didn't harbor any ancestry from the Neolithic farmers of the Fertile Crescent or even the Iranian Plateau.

That's because, according to Shinde et al., their West Eurasian ancestors separated genetically from those of the early Holocene populations of what is now western and northern Iran around 12,000 BCE. In other words, well before the advent of agriculture.

This surely complicates matters for those arguing that Indo-European languages may have arrived in the Indian subcontinent with early farmers via the Iranian Plateau. The more widely accepted theory is that Indo-European languages spread into South Asia with Bronze Age pastoralists from the Eurasian steppes. See here...

Update 05/09/2019: I had a quick look at the ancient Rakhigarhi individual with qpAdm, just to confirm for myself that she was indeed largely of West Eurasian origin and practically indistinguishable from Indus_Periphery. The genotype data that I used are freely available here.

IRN_Ganj_Dareh_N 0.711±0.065
Onge 0.232±0.067
RUS_Tyumen_HG 0.057±0.059
chisq 13.251
tail prob 0.0392147
Full output

IRN_Ganj_Dareh_N 0.674±0.015
Onge 0.237±0.014
RUS_Tyumen_HG 0.090±0.012
chisq 14.877
tail prob 0.0212326
Full output

IND_Rakhigarhi_BA 0.946±0.074
Onge 0.054±0.074
chisq 10.358
tail prob 0.169152
Full output

This does appear to be the case, although it's also obvious that my models are missing something important because their statistical fits are rather poor. I'm guessing the main problem is trying to use the Onge people of the Andaman Islands as a proxy for the indigenous foragers of the Indian subcontinent.

See also...

Y-haplogroup R1a and mental health