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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Blast from the past: Yamnaya prediction from 2016

I wonder what's holding up the publication of the Wang et al. "Greater Caucasus" preprint? It was released back in May at the bioRxiv (see here). On a related note, I was looking back at some of the stuff that I wrote about the origin of the Yamnaya people (aka Steppe_EMBA), and found this...

But here's my prediction: Steppe_EMBA only has 10-15% admixture from the post-Mesolithic Near East not including the North Caucasus, and basically all of this comes via female mediated gene flow from farming communities in the Caucasus and perhaps present-day Ukraine.

The relevant blog post from 2016 is here. I totally forgot that I made such a bold prediction. But it actually has a very good chance now of being proven correct, more or less.

This, however, depends on the precise origin of the Yamnaya-like Eneolithic populations of the southernmost parts of the Pontic-Caspian steppe. But, considering the data in Wang et al., I think the possibility that they date back to the Pottery Neolithic period, and are thus indigenous to the region, looks quite high.

About a year later I made a prediction about the genetic structure of the Maykop people, and was basically proven right by Wang et al. (see here). Admittedly, my jaw dropped when I saw how the Steppe Maykop individuals came out in the preprint, with their Botai-like ancestry that is missing in all Yamnaya populations sampled to date. But it was an interesting outcome and nice to be surprised by ancient DNA yet again.

See also...

Genetic borders are usually linguistic borders too

Ahead of the pack

Open thread: What are the linguistic implications of Olalde et al. 2019?


Samuel Andrews said...

Nice job. At that time, David Reich's team was still playing with the idea of 'recent' Maykop or Iran Chalcolithic contribution to Yamnaya. They still think Yamnaya's southern ancestry is from Iran which the data now shows is wrong.

This shows you make clear-headed predictions that are worth while to listen to unlike what some of your hater(s) say. But, i'd like to see discussion here about more than Indo European stuff......

Any idea, when the paper with Hungary Yamnaya genomes will be out?

Karl_K said...

Come on. All R1a comes from India.

This has been proven.

Davidski said...

The battle lines have been redrawn recently, thanks to the ancient DNA from Central Asia. Now, no one who has the ability to think logically is claiming that all R1a is from India or even Central Asia.

But a lot of people are claiming that R1a-Z93, the Asian R1a, isn't all that closely related to European R1a, and that it does come from Central Asia.

This is obviously total b*llshit, because R1a-Z93 is very closely related to the main European R1a lineages, and in fact was very common in ancient Eastern Europe (ie the Z93-rich Srubnaya population lived in Eastern Europe, in Ukraine and parts of nearby Russia).

Lee said...


I I think that the finding of the botai genetics in the Maykop people is very telling. Especially as the Boys I where the first to domesticated horses, at least that is how the evidence is leaning. Add in that the earliest wagon wheel is found in a major organ, it is starting to look like spread of horse husbandry came from the botai, with a later replacement of horse type, possibly even very early as local horses replaced early imports ( availability or temperament for cart pulling.) The transfer. Of horse and cart was then a cultural transfer or limited demic transfer (possibly elite dominance) from The maykop to other cultures.

This may or may not have brought language as well. Impossible to say.

Davidski said...

@Lee Albee

There are no indications from ancient DNA of any close interactions between steppe groups like Sredny Stog/Khvalynsk/Yamnaya and Maykop or Botai.

There is, however, evidence of mass replacements of both Maykop and Botai peoples in the North Caucasus steppes and Central Asia by Yamnaya and the later closely related Sintashta, respectively.

So here's my theory: Maykop needed a buffer zone between themselves and the Indo-Europeans in the steppes to the north, hence the Botai-like Steppe Maykop.

This seems to have worked for a while, but then we see Yamnaya move into the North Caucasus steppes, Maykop disappear, and even Kura-Araxes pushed into the Near East.

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

And in regards to Sintashta replacing Botai, here you go...

Major horse paper coming soon

Lee said...


Sorry about that post auto correct is kicking my hiney tonight.

I am aware that the genetic information is. But I think the "outlier" Steppe Maykop samples show that some mixing was going on???

Anyway, you cannot be certain when the Yamnaya began speaking indo-European languages. As the are considered late PIE, the were unlikely the originators of the language. Don't conflate language with genetics.

Some verifiable facts (as of today):
1) first evidence of horse domestication was with the Botai
2) First evidence of wagons--Maykop?3)evidence of botai genetics in maykop

So contact was had at least culturally. Probably some low level geneflow as well.I think we discussed the idea of a cultural dominance by non Yamana in the past? Confederation of related and non-related groups seemed to be the norm for steppe groups throughout history at least to the middle ages.

That Yamnaya nomadic people later destroyed the culture is relatively irrelevant to early pie.
That sintasta later get rid of Botai is irrelevant. Yamana like people and botai like people seemed to not like each other much throughout prehistory.

That modern horses are not Botai horses is also irrelevant for many reasons. Population replacements happen. For various reasons.


Davidski said...

@Lee Albee

The Maykop outliers are only relevant to Maykop, not to Yamnaya. In other words, there was mixing between Maykop and Steppe Maykop.

Also, there's evidence of horse domestication in Eneolithic Eastern Europe by people with no links to the Botai people. This looks like a parallel process to the one at Botai, not one derived from it.

And there's evidence of wagons in Neolithic Europe at sites older than Maykop. This is interesting because Yamnaya does have Neolithic European admixture, but no Maykop ancestry.

Ric Hern said...

It all looks like Suvorovo-Novodanilovka had something to do with this whole story and specifically Middle-Proto-Indo-European Language...

My uneducated guess is an early migration from the Lower Don up to Samara/Khvalynsk and then to Derievka/Sredny Stog. From there back Eastwards forming Repin and Westwards forming Suvorovo ? The Horse Headed Scepters spread from Khvalynsk towards the Balkans, Greece and Hungary

Nirjhar007 said...

Dear David,
This seems to have worked for a while, but then we see Yamnaya move into the North Caucasus steppes, Maykop disappear, and even Kura-Araxes pushed into the Near East

Bud, you still seem to miss the important point that the expansion of CHG/ EHG occurred from the north Caucasus to the rest of the steppe.

As Russian archaeologists like Trifonov point out, Majkop was pulled back toward the Near East , which is what the Arslantepe mound c. 3000 BCE, might indeed confirm.

At the very same time, Kura-Arax expanded north and established a strip in the northeast Caucasian piedmont, which might partly account for Majkop’s eventual extinction, as well as the Uruk trade which sustained it, collapsed.

The Botai weren’t a “buffer”, as there is no evidence for any centralised Botai mercenary service, or indeed any need for their services given that the Majkop chiefs had weapons which made Yamnaya look relatively meek. Perhaps Botai people arrived as horse traders?

You seem to be conflating a diverse raft of events separated by thousands of years into one partly confused, partly creative, Davidski-esque Sci-Fi :) .

Davidski said...


Yamnaya doesn't derive from the Caucasus or even the North Caucasus steppes, it's a culture that formed from the Sredny Stog, Repin and Khvalynsk cultures well north of the Caucasus.

So no, Yamnaya wasn't native to the North Caucasus, but yes, as I correctly pointed out, it expanded into the North Caucasus steppes.

You'll have to accept this just like you had to accept that R1a wasn't native to India, whether you like it or not.

Ric Hern said...

Does an Obsidian Blade at the tip of a spear kill less efficiently than a Metal Blade in the hands of someone who knows how to use it ? Does a metal axe kill more efficiently than a Stone Axe ? Ever wondered why Slingshots were used into the Iron Age ?

The only real advantage metal gave people in early wars were the fact that metal can be reused or bent back to its original form but as far as killing goes stone can be just as effective...

Ric Hern said...

The real Game Changer was when Armor and effective Shields started to enter the Battlefield.
Then Metal became more effective as weapons due to its durability/elasticity...

Nirjhar007 said...

Dear Dave

You seem confused ,Yamnaya dates from 3000 BCE.
The north Caucasus Steppe eneolithic existed since 4500 BCE. They are the best match for Proto-Yamnaya ancestry. Khvalynsk barely even made any kurgans; and seem to have been replaced.

I won’t wade into South Asia for now :) .

Davidski said...


Yamnaya dates to earlier than 3000 BCE, and Sredny Stog, Repin and Khvalysnk to much earlier than that.

Have you heard about Sredny Stog? You can read about it here...

Was Ukraine_Eneolithic I6561 a Proto-Indo-European?

And how do you know that populations like Steppe Eneolithic didn't exist well north of the North Caucasus steppes earlier than Yamnaya? Like, for instance, in Sredny Stog and Khvalynsk?

Oh, guess what, they did.

Nirjhar007 said...

Dear Dave, your nose must be getting rather big with all those lies you are telling.

Why don’t we consult Shishlina; who excavates and dates these cultures:''Yamnaya culture population (3000–2450 cal BC) occupied various ecological areas”.

Sredny Stog is not Yamnaya, so no offence I do not need to read your garbled and distorted tales.

How do we know about populations well north of the Caucasus ? Because we have samples already . Duh !
Anyhow, I’ll leave you to your Sci Fi :) .

@ Ric Hern
If bronze tools have the advantage of reproduction, doesn’t that answer your question ?
Anyhow, it seems irrelevant here, despite Dave’s narrative .

Davidski said...


Yamnaya can't be from the North Caucasus because the North Caucasus region was occupied by Maykop and Steppe Maykop when Yamnaya didn't even exist yet.

And Yamnaya can't be derived from Maykop. It's impossible, and we know this because we have the samples.


Nirjhar007 said...

We said north Caucasus Steppe eneolithic , not Majkop.
Whoops indeed.

But hey, I’ll cut you a break : Maybe those males in mound burials identified as females!, after all gender is just a social construct. So your Caucasus wives theory is salvaged !.

Davidski said...


You're not making any sense.

Yamnaya can't be derived from the Eneolithic of the North Caucasus steppes because this doesn't fit any published chronology.

Yamnaya only shows up in the North Caucasus region around 3000 BCE, after its recorded much further north.

So like I said, Yamnaya derives from Sredny Stog, Repin and Khvalynsk. Check out this map and learn, or just finally do something else with your time.

"The Homeland: In the footprints of the early Indo-Europeans" time map

Vara said...


Not just Sredny Stog, Repin and Khvalynsk but Maykop also. The Zhivotilovka-Volchansk horizon, which is the first culture that shows the transition from the Eneolithic to Bronze age on the steppes, is derived from Novosbodnaya. Not only that, but it is also the first culture on the steppe that has wheeled devices. The Bronocice pot is dated around the same as the Novokorsunskaya burial horse burial with wagons so the European wagons aren't "much older".

A mountainous homeland, metallurgy and militarism for Trito*, cereal farming, wheeled devices, and hounds of death burials all lead to the south and not the Steppes for PIE.

I think comparative literature is clear on the subject of PIE and the linguistic data is clear about the problems of the steppe homeland even if there is a "consensus".

"but if there was little or no agriculture east of the Dnieper, then how can we describe the eastern archaeological cultures of the Don (Repin), Volga (Khvalynsk) or the entire Don-Ural region (Yamnaya) as Indo-European if they lacked arable agriculture? "

ATM, The best solution for the Steppe theory is a Sredny Stog -> Corded Ware model like EastPole's but even that is lacking for Early PIE.

@Ric Hern

They had swords by 3800 BCE! Obsidian shatters easily when you hit bones.You telling me that a these samurai-ninja-herders could beat people who had proper military and were using swords by using stone weapons? Try cutting chicken with a stone blade and go to the nearest high school fencing team with a knife see how that goes for you.

Bob Floy said...


Why don't you just accept that OIT(or whatever watered down, fig leaf clad version of it that you claim to subscribe to) is dead, and join the grownups, instead of coming here and stinking up the comment threads with your obnoxious, knit-picky bullshit? Yeah, I know, you're not talking about South Asia here, but we all know that's your real issue, all of this other crap you're now trying to argue for is just your plan "B". Anyone who's been watching this blog for the last 3 or 4 years knows that it's *always* about South Asis for nirjhar. Your cocky know-it-all tone is wholly inappropriate for a guy who swore that he would get off of the internet if it turned out that India's R1a didn't come from the IVC. Have some dignity.

Davidski said...


The cultures from the Caucasus that you apparently identify as Proto-Indo-European did not have any genetic impact on the Eneolithic/Bronze Age steppe peoples, except Steppe Maykop to some extent.

On the other hand, late European farmers did. And I'm pretty sure that they had words for farming and related stuff.

So now not only do you have to contest the linguistic and archeological consensus, but also somehow get around the new ancient DNA results.

Good luck.

Ric Hern said...

@ Vara

Could you please point out to me how many swords were found in the Maykop Culture ? How common were Metal Weapons during the Eneolithic or any other Metal objects for that matter ?

As to the effectiveness of Obsidian you can look at bullets used today which fragments upons impact causing more damage to surrounding tissue and making surgery more complicated and time consuming....for a bleeding soldier, time is of the essence...

I do not say that Obsidian and flint were superior but they were effective none the less.

Nirjhar007 said...

@ Bob Floy
Thanks for your comments. Yes, I’m always trying to improve my knowledge.

Did I mention about the time I chanced upon Twatford-on -Twatford.? I had some lovely rose tea and cucumber sandwiches.

Then I put on my wife’s cardigan.

Folker said...

Trypillia was present in the Steppe and had relations to Repin. And it happens wagons and metallurgy were first attested in the Balkans. If Yamna were the result of mixing between Steppe culture (Repin, Khvalynsk....), with a chunk of Balkans Neolithic DNA, there is no need of any influence from Maykop. And already pointed the DNA results to you: no trace of Maykop in Yamna (except in some outliers labellised as such).

Grey said...

"You telling me that a these samurai-ninja-herders could beat people who had proper military and were using swords by using stone weapons?"

if they could hit and run

"Due to their expert horsemanship and agility, as well as their lack of armor or heavy weaponry, they were most suitable for harassing tactics, charging in loose formation and lobbing their javelins before wheeling off to escape the enemy's counterattack."

"A young, poor, or low ranking Comanche man could better his circumstances—albeit at great risk to his life—by raiding for horses and human captives. The wealth he obtained would enable him to buy a Comanche wife—or he might find a first, second, or third wife among the captives."