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Monday, September 5, 2011

Surprising aDNA results from Neolithic and Bronze Age Ukraine

Update 16/09/2013: The full thesis is now available to the public (see here).


A thesis abstract published at the Grand Valley State University website reports that six out of seventeen ancient samples from Neolithic and Bronze Age Ukraine belonged to Siberian-specific mtDNA haplogroup C (see here). This looks like a very important outcome, because it suggests that East Eurasian mtDNA lineages were fairly common in pre-Indo-European Ukraine. However, they weren't found among Bronze Age Corded Ware remains from eastern Germany, with supposed origins on the Eastern Europe steppe (see here), nor are they commonly found in present-day Ukraine. So perhaps the Eastern European steppe was not the source of any large-scale migrations into Central Europe, including the Corded Ware expansions? Instead, maybe the European steppe populations were replaced by successive waves of migrants from East Central or even Central Europe? Here's the abstract, which is all that's available at the moment:

Studies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) polymorphism have provided valuable insights for understanding patterns of human migration and interaction. The ability to recover ancient mtDNA sequence data from post-mortem bone and tissue samples allows us to view snapshots of historic gene pools firsthand, provided that great care is taken to prevent sample contamination. In this study, we analyzed the DNA sequence of the first hypervariable segment (HVSI) of the mtDNA control region, as well as a portion of the coding region, in 14 individuals from three collective burials from the Neolithic Dnieper-Donetz culture and three individuals from Bronze Age Kurgan burials, all located in modern-day Ukraine on the northern shores of the Black Sea (the North Pontic Region, or NPR). While most of our samples possessed mtDNA haplotypes that can be linked to European and Near Eastern populations, three Neolithic and all three Bronze Age individuals belonged to mtDNA haplogroup C, which is common in East Eurasian, particularly South Siberian, populations but exceedingly rare in Europe. Phylogeographic network analysis revealed that our samples are located at or near the ancestral node for haplogroup C and that derived lineages branching from the Neolithic samples were present in Bronze Age Kurgans. In light of the numerous examples of mtDNA admixture that can be found in both Europe and Siberia, it appears that the NPR and South Siberia are located at opposite ends of a genetic continuum established at some point prior to the Neolithic. This migration corridor may have been established during the Last Glacial Maximum due to extensive glaciation in northern Eurasia and a consequent aridization of western Asia. This implies the demographic history for the European gene pool is more complex than previously considered and also has significant implications regarding the origin of Kurgan populations.

Newton, Jeremy R., "Ancient Mitochondrial DNA From Pre-historic Southeastern Europe: The Presence of East Eurasian Haplogroups Provides Evidence of Interactions with South Siberians Across the Central Asian Steppe Belt" (2011). Masters Theses. Paper 5.


n/a said...

"it seems East Eurasian mtDNA lineages were fairly common"

These probably do not represent "East Eurasian" (in the sense of Mongoloid) admixture.

"Mixing between European men and Asian women in ancient Central Asia has already been established by earlier aDNA studies"

Not "established". Assumed, based on the present-day distribution of of C mtDNA. This ancient DNA evidence ought to force a reconsideration.

At some later eastern sites, real Asian admixture may be indicated. But in the case of, for example, individuals buried at Xiaohe (about whose C lineages the authors say: "Given the unique genetic haplotypes and the particular archaeological culture, the time of this admixture could be much earlier than the time at which the Xiaohe people were living at the site. This means that the time of their mingling was at least a 1000 years earlier than previously proposed."), it's more likely there was never any "Asian admixture". The C lineages were part of the gene pool of steppe Caucasoids from the beginning, and the low frequency in present-day Europeans is due to drift, selection, or population movements.

Davidski said...

Well, whether they're East Asian or Eastern European, C lineages didn't pop up in any of the Central and Eastern European ancient DNA studies done earlier (like Corded Ware, Urnfield caves, or the LBK and Mesolithic sites). But they were common on the ancient steppes, all the way from Ukraine to China.

So if there was a major movement of people from the western steppe deep into Europe, then it's strange that mtDNA C wasn't a key component of that migration.